Lost Miles Davis Album, Rubberband, Will Finally Be Released This Fall: Hear the Title Track, “Rubberband,” in Five Different Versions

Jazz is a col­lab­o­ra­tive art, no mat­ter how big the egos and out­sized the per­son­al­i­ties involved. Even band­lead­ers as auto­crat­ic as Miles Davis are referred to in the con­text of their ensem­bles and in the com­pa­ny of their finest play­ers. Davis knew how good his col­lab­o­ra­tors were. He gave them ample space to prove it and pushed them to improve. Usu­al­ly pushed them out the door, to leg­endary solo careers and new musi­cal dynas­ties: John Coltrane and Her­bie Han­cock come to mind imme­di­ate­ly.

As the 80s dawned, pop­u­lar music on the whole became increas­ing­ly pro­duc­er-dri­ven. Dig­i­tal syn­the­siz­ers and sam­plers took promi­nence, and jazz greats like Davis and Han­cock fol­lowed suit. (Would Coltrane have made com­put­er music in the 80s had he lived to see them?) In 1986, Davis’s album Tutu fierce­ly “divid­ed fans and crit­ics,” notes Jazz­wise mag­a­zine. “Miles record­ed his trum­pet parts over a lush elec­tric sound­scape, pro­duced from a bat­tery of sam­plers, syn­the­siz­ers, sequencers and drum machines.”

Most­ly “pro­duced, arranged, played, and com­posed,” by bassist Mar­cus Miller—anticipating the cur­rent phe­nom­e­non of pro­duc­er-cre­at­ed albums—Tutuwas a prod­uct of the 80s, a decade where music was often in dan­ger of becom­ing sub­servient to tech­nol­o­gy.” In Davis’ hands, the tech­no­log­i­cal approach to jazz pro­duced a clas­sic that “con­tin­ues to thrive” in the jazz world, cov­ered by sev­er­al major artists. Anoth­er album Davis record­ed around the same time, Rub­ber­band, nev­er got the chance to have this kind of impact—but we will soon get to imag­ine what might have hap­pened had he released the 1986 funk, soul, dance album at the time.

In its fin­ished form—finished, that is, by orig­i­nal pro­duc­ers Randy Hall and Zane Giles, and Davis’ nephew Vince Wilburn, Jr., who played drums on the album—Rub­ber­band sounds ahead of its time, seem­ing to fore­cast the smooth neo-soul sound of a decade lat­er. But who knows how much this is an arti­fact of recent stu­dio deci­sions. The impres­sion, in any case, comes only from the title track, released last year in five dif­fer­ent ver­sions on the Rub­ber­band EP. Fea­tur­ing singer Ledisi, the song presages the hip-hop-adja­cent, horn-and-female-vocal-dri­ven funk of the Brand New Heav­ies, Erykah Badu, and Meshell Nde­geo­cel­lo.

At the same time, “Rub­ber­band” incor­po­rates some of the more banal ele­ments of the genre, such as an upbeat, some­what insipid cho­rus about mak­ing a bet­ter life. The track cross­es ful­ly over into con­tem­po­rary dance music—it is no longer jazz at all, real­ly. Whether or not we can say that about the entire album remains to be seen. The full, com­plet­ed, album will be released on Sep­tem­ber 6th (pre-order here), with a cov­er paint­ing by Davis him­self. “Set to be his first album for Warn­er Bros. Records fol­low­ing his depar­ture from long­time label Colum­bia,” reports Pitch­fork, “that record was ulti­mate­ly shelved” in favor of Tutu.

The record fea­tures oth­er guest singers, so we might expect more jams like “Rub­ber­band,” but one nev­er real­ly knows with Davis, who arguably invented—or at least perfected—producer-driven, stu­dio-made jazz records many years ear­li­er, first on the ground­break­ing In a Silent Way in 1969, then on the even more ground­break­ing Bitch­es Brew in 1970. Even as his music began to sound more com­mer­cial, its roots in four decades of rad­i­cal­ly chang­ing jazz every few years made it whol­ly orig­i­nal to the minds of Miles Davis and his col­lab­o­ra­tors.

via Pitch­fork

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Kind of Blue: How Miles Davis Changed Jazz

Hear a 65-Hour, Chrono­log­i­cal Playlist of Miles Davis’ Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Jazz Albums

Lis­ten to The Night When Miles Davis Opened for the Grate­ful Dead in 1970

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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