By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
No doubt aware of the multitude of recordings and concerts already dedicated to the memory of Miles Davis, keyboardist Jason Miles says this album is not a tribute but rather "a series of stories" about the late, iconic jazz trumpeter. Serving as arranger and programmer, Miles worked with bassist/producer Marcus Miller to assemble the tracks that became Davis' 1986 album Tutu, and Miles to Miles relies on many of the same building blocks found there: propulsive, funky beats; a subtle use of sampling; angular, modal melodies; and cleverly conceived synthetic orchestrations.
As in his work with Davis, Miles functions here as a composer and orchestrator rather than as a soloist. And like Davis himself, he clearly understands the importance of getting first-rate musicians to do his bidding, recruiting a diverse and accomplished cast that brings together mainstream, smooth-jazz, funk and rock players. Michael Brecker, Gerald Albright, Karl Denson and the late Bob Berg all make worthy contributions on saxophone, while Randy Brecker, Nicholas Payton, Tom Harrell and ex-Tower of Power member Barry Danielian provide fine trumpet work without trying to copy Davis' trademark style. Acoustic guitarist Marc Antoine and famed funk keyboardist Bernie Worrell contribute a cameo each, DJ Logic adds scratching and turntablism to a few cuts, and Gene Lake and Carter Beauford (of the Dave Matthews Band) handle the live percussion in capable fashion.
Highlights include "Ferrari," the swaggering first track with a title referencing Miles Davis' favorite automobile, and the closing "Street Vibe" suite, which ranges over fifteen minutes and draws on at least three continents for its musical inspiration. Miles to Miles may not equal any of Davis' own masterpieces, but that's an almost inhuman standard for any mortal musician to meet. On its own merits, it stands nicely as a smart, well-crafted collection of funk-jazz tunes with enough guts and pithy ideas to merit repeated listens.