Miles Davis’ Shelved Rubberband Project Scheduled for September Release
In 1985, the world-renowned jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis parted company with Columbia, his record label of thirty years. His reasons for doing so are unconfirmed, but it appears possible that frustration over a delayed release might have informed his decision. He joined Warner Bros. and by October, had hit the studio in Los Angeles to lay the groundworks for a funky new record entitled Rubberband.
Despite having a new deal and new sonic direction, Davis aborted the project, going on to record and release Tututhe following year. For the next thirty years, the Rubberband material went untouched, until finally, the original producers Randy Hall and Zane Giles, accompanied by Miles’ nephew Vince Wilburn Jr., went back into the studio to approach the project once more.
Now, thirty-four years after the sessions began, Rubberband is to be released in full: an eleven-track project featuring vocal contributions from Band on the Wall favourites Lalah Hathaway and Ledisi in place of the project’s originally planned vocalists, Chaka Khan and the late Al Jarreau. The long-lost record will be released on 6th September 2019 on vinyl, CD and in digital formats, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of Davis’ landmark modal jazz LP, Kind of Blue— an LP separated from Rubberband by musical revolutions of Miles’ own making.
Stream the opening cut below and find out more here.
The Repeat Listen: Keb’ Mo’ – Oklahoma
Tasting notes: Taj Mahal – Labor of Love, Danny Cox – Danny Cox, Rhiannon Giddens –Freedom Highway, Jontavious Willis – Spectacular Class
A quarter of a century has elapsed since the release of Keb’ Mo’s eponymous debut album, during which time the Tennessee-based artist has become a key figure in contemporary American roots music. His new album, Oklahoma, is a reflection of the things that have become important to him — or retained their importance — during that 25-year stretch: from collaborating with like-minded musicians, to crafting lyrics with real substance, upon both first listen and further studying.
As such, the album’s ten songs all touch upon an issue relevant to a wider audience, many of them benefitting from the contributions of other well-known musicians. The title track, Oklahoma, for instance, mightn’t have taken shape at all had it not been for Keb’ Mo’s willingness to collaborate. As the album’s accompanying literature explains, the track germinated from a 2013 visit to the South Central state, for a performance at a benefit concert in the wake of the Moore tornado. Keb’ Mo’s experience prompted a desire to sing about Oklahoma and melody with which to do so, but without a strong personal connection to the state, he couldn’t have fulfilled that desire alone. Thankfully, Keb’ Mo’ met and began writing with the Tulsa-born singer and writer Dara Tucker, who helped him to inject decades worth of history pertinent to Texas’ northern neighbour into the lyrics.
The song has a jaunty groove, in spite of it addressing some serious subject matter — Keb’ Mo’ deciding to make it a resilient and to reflect that in the mood and tone. Robert Randolph, who was also on the bill at the 2013 We Can Help Moore benefit, adds a sublime lap steel solo to the track — voice-like expression and immaculate control hallmarks of his playing during its long fade out.
Elsewhere on the album, Rosanne Cash adds soulful backing vocals to the track Put A Woman in Charge, a country-soul clarion call for female leadership. It’s opening stanza could’ve spilled from Randy Newman’s pen — turse yet emotive in the way it recounts mankind’s journey from ‘making the fire’ to being ‘on the brink of disaster.’ Past master Taj Mahal features on the matter-of-fact, anti-waste number Don’t Throw it Away, echoing Keb’ Mo’s sentiment with his inimitable backing vocals.
Aside from its purposeful songwriting, the album is a fine example of record production and engineering. On album opener I Remember You, the guitar tone is crisp and immediate, sitting comfortably atop an arrangement of drums, wurlitzer, hammond organ, electric bass and the occasional crest of ambient electric guitar, without any one element feeling unnatural or dominant. On Ridin’ On A Train, the brightness and a quick decay of the resonator guitar is perfectly conveyed, with a gritty drum recording and subtle slapback on the vocals giving those three simple elements a real rugged quality, while retaining their overall high fidelity. Cold Outside wins the rosette forOklahoma’scoolest groove, Keb’ Mo’ channeling the swagger and confidence of blues and R&B legends from decades before.
His new album is one beautifully recorded, packed with collaborations that compliment his sound and songs that convey his mature artistic standpoint. His musical motivation, at this stage, is simply to make records that he is proud of, that he enjoys making and hopes others can enjoy hearing. The clarity of that vision shines through in the clarity of this record.
New Sounds and Visuals
Rap duo Smif-N-Wessun last week released a new video for Ocean Drive ft. Musiq SoulChild. The feel good visual was shot in Miami and sees the artists kicking back in the convertible and enjoying the shoreline.
Elftet, the ensemble led by vibes player and one-time Jazz Directors series residency participant Jonny Mansfield, have released a short studio video to accompany Falling. The record arrives next week and celebrated saxophonist Chris Potter (who led Jonny’s residency) features on its second track.
DJ Lag and OKZharp have joined forces for an EP on Hyperdub records. Stream Rooms drops in July and Nyusa is the third of its four tracks: a hard-hitting house cut with offbeat panting and brutal synth programming.
Finally, if you’re a fan of Sons of Kemet, Ethio-jazz and improvised music bordering on dance music, you’ll certainly dig the new Vipertime EP. The band play at Free Jazz this month and you can check out their cut Shakedownbelow.