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Miles Comes To The Big Screen; Nephew Vincent Wilburn Approves

R.J. DeLuke By

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AAJ: How did Miles influence you as a musician?

VW: I call it Miles Davis University. All the students came through it. Plus he was a life teacher, not just music. He taught me how to take a spoon away from the bowl when you eat soup. I never knew that shit, you know? He was that kind of person. He was knowledgeable. He told me to save money. Invest money. When you go on stage, always dress impeccably. Don't wear any damn thing. One time I had some Nike shit on. He said, 'You look like a walking billboard.' I never dressed like that again going on stage.

He was a proud black man. A proud man. I've read things where people thought he was... how do they put it... he didn't like white musicians. If a musician could play, he didn't give a shit if he was green. It was always about the advancement of music. Evolving, that's what he was about. Never stay complacent. It wasn't about money. He made great money, but it was in his heart. What he set out to do was keep it moving and keep it fresh. Never resting on your laurels. That's what he did until the day he passed away.

AAJ: I know he had am impeccable sense of rhythm. Did that influence you as a drummer?

VW: Man, he talked about rhythm from the riverboats. He would get rhythm from listening to trains run on the track. He loved rhythm. I remember he brought me James Brown The Payback album [a landmark funk album, Polydor, 1974]. He said, 'Learn it back and forth.'

He gave me the guidelines to what to listen to, how to be a better musician. Not just drums. Composition. Drums. Bass. Whatever you wanted to play, be serious about the music and don't bullshit the music. This is your life, so act like it.

AAJ: How was Uncle Miles versus, Miles, your boss on the road?

VW: He was intense. He was a teacher. He was family oriented. He didn't take any bullshit on the bandstand. It was all about the music. If you couldn't handle it, you suffered. He was caring and he loved us. He cared about me and treated me like a son.

AAJ: I know he was close with your mother [sister, Dorothy] and Vernon [brother].

VW: Oh yeah. They were close. Curse each other out and then five minutes later they'd act like nothing happened. And they wouldn't let anybody else get in the middle. [chuckles] My dad wouldn't dare get in the middle of their arguments. You couldn't mess with them. Once they got into their arguments, stay out of it. Then five minutes later [imitates Miles raspy voice]: 'Dorothy, what you cooking for dinner?' You know. It was something to behold.

AAJ: What are your thoughts on the legacy of Miles?

VW: The legacy of Miles... the music speaks for itself. What we're trying to do each day, like this last box set from Newport [Miles Davis At Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 box set, Legacy] is to keep it fresh. We're finding new ways of finding new audiences, like with the Robert Glasper re-mix. Our manager, Darryl Porter, is reaching out for synergies. We have a bunch of things coming out in 2016, which would have been Miles 90th birthday.

AAJ: What do you hope the film does for Miles legacy?

VW: I hope with the film... you learn a little bit about Miles, you learn a little bit about his music. You take away something positive, and it makes you feel good.

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