An Interview with Jason Miles
by Paula Edelstein
Brazilian composer, pianist and singer Ivan Lins is rapidly becoming one of the most admired and respected modern masters of song since Antonio Carlos Jobim, Milton Nascimento and Gilberto Gil. As one of the most prolific composers to arrive during the post Bossa Nova generation, his repertoire is staggering and has been interpreted by such musical legends as Quincy Jones, Elis Regina, George Benson, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan. Today, a new generation and stunning lineup of pop and jazz stars that includes Freddy Cole, Chaka Khan, Dave Koz, Sting, Vanessa Williams and the late great Grover Washington, Jr., through the musical visions of Telarc artist and producer Jason Miles and the master himself, convey the romantic sophistication of Ivan Lins and capture it with beauty and tenderness on A LOVE AFFAIR- THE MUSIC OF IVAN LINS.
A LOVE AFFAIR – THE MUSIC OF IVAN LINS was produced and arranged by Jason Miles, best known for his top session and production credits, solo albums and award-winning film music. His debut release for Telarc, THE MUSIC OF WEATHER REPORT, met with worldwide acclaim and climbed to Number 6 on the Japanese music charts earlier this year! His great vibes, sense of humor, sincerity with a capital “S” and overall humanitarian spirit makes Jason the perfect producer for a project of this magnitude. Having created most of the synth sounds on Miles Davis’ classic TUTU, Jason Miles pondered this project for many years after meeting with Miles Davis one evening and hearing some of Ivan Lins’ music played by the great trumpeter. Davis died months later and Jason stayed in the session business, but as fate would have it, Jason heeded the call of his muse to forever seal the connection between Miles Davis and Ivan Lins. The result is A LOVE AFFAIR, THE MUSIC OF IVAN LINS. As one of the most beautiful projects this year, you can’t imagine how infinitely grateful we are to have spoken to Jason about this great project. Ladies and Gentlemen, we are pleased to present Jason Miles…
JazzUSA: Congratulations Jason on A LOVE AFFAIR, THE MUSIC OF IVAN LINS. What great songs from such a brilliant constellation of stars! This must have been one great gig! How did the concept come about?
JM: This was an exciting, challenging, difficult, amazingly musically rewarding project. Does that answer it? I had listened to Ivan’s music for over 15 years. We met in 1989 in Woodstock, New York. I was working one night in 1991 with Marcus Miller and Chaka khan when Miles Davis called me at the studio. He wanted me to hear a tape that he got. I went over to Mile’s apartment and he played me a tape of Ivan singing some of his material. It was just him at the keyboards. It was a thing of beauty. Miles was going to do a whole CD of Ivan’s material. Miles passed away a few months later and of course the project was never done. I thought it was such an amazing idea to have Miles playing Ivan’s music. I worked with Ivan a few times over the next few years. We’ve developed a warm friendship and he knows how much his music means to me. I’ve tried to get this project off of the ground for 6 years. I finally got the chance and I had to make this record count.
JazzUSA: Well count it does and in our opinion, it’s one of the most influential works this year! Jason, just the presence of Ivan as an accompanist on three of his songs and singing “Somos Todos Iquais Neste Noite” is spectacular! This song is one of my favorites but you’ve given it a beautiful accompaniment with Chuck Loeb, Romero Lubambo, Oscar Hernandez, Marcus Miller, Vinnie Colaiuta, Marc Quinones, yourself, and Pamela Driggs. Did you record this in Brazil?
JM: No, I didn’t record this song in Brazil. That would have been amazing but a logistical nightmare. I have a certain way that I do my projects to make it feel like everybody is in the room at the same time. “Somos Todos Iquais Neste Noite” is also one of my favorite songs on the CD. It has been done a few times, but I always heard it as this Brazilian, New York salsa vibe. I was trying to create at little bit of the “Vibe of Smooth.” Marc Quinones, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Marcus Miller really rock this track!
JazzUSA: The “Vibe of Smooth”…I like that! It’s like the Tropic of Cool! What was it like to work with Ivan Lins on this project?
JM: You give him the space he needs to create and then you join him to complete the journey.
JazzUSA: “She Walks This Earth,” is one of those songs that you instantly remember the melody to and adds further depth to Ivan Lins’ compositional prowess. Did Sting and Ivan collaborate on this song, because both of their styles really shine through?
JM: Ivan sent me a cassette tape with some new songs on it. When I heard one of the songs named “Soberana Hasa” I knew it was the song for Sting. It had that special vibe that I felt Sting could capture. Since the song only had Ivan at the keyboards with a drum machine behind it, I spent a couple of days thinking what kind of feeling I wanted the track to convey. I sent the track to Sting to do lyrics. I got a call from his assistant who said, “Sting is so busy he can’t really spend the time to really give the lyrics the attention that they need. Could I get a lyricist to write something?” I immediately said, “yes” and proceeded to call Brenda Russell. She was so excited because she is a huge Ivan fan and a huge Sting fan. It was her dream. She proceeded to write a truly wonderful lyric. They felt like a Sting song and it proved to be true by the truly wonderful performance he did on the CD.
JazzUSA: Brenda Russell is so very, very, talented! I recently heard her perform an Ivan Lins’ song at the Old Pasadena Jazz Festival in Pasadena, California. It was great and really was loved by the crowd. If this is any indication of the reception you’ll receive, then you’re going to be a very busy person!! She does a great rendition of “Nocturne” on A LOVE AFFAIR, THE MUSIC OF IVAN LINS.
JM: I can proudly say that my wife Kathy Byalick wrote the lyrics to that song. I can tell you that it just wasn’t a given. Ivan had to approve the lyrics and it was crafted to the way he felt that song best expressed itself. She also co-wrote “So Crazy with This Love,” with Chaka Khan, which is also on the CD. I was very happy that Brenda Russell sang this song. As I mentioned, she loves Ivan’s music. As far as being busy, I just want to keep making the music that I believe in and if the public and the industry believe in my work, I’ll be busy. I have other projects happening that I have the same passion for. If I’m going to make the quality work that I know I am capable of doing, it has to be about the music.
JazzUSA: Your ability to gather together such greats as Freddy Cole, Sting, Vanessa Williams, Brenda Russell, Chaka Khan, Peter White, Dianne Reeves, Chuck Loeb, Joe Sample, Dave Koz, Michael Brecker and so many others, says A LOT about the works you’re paying tribute to and the level of respect you have in the industry, Jason. Ivan Lins’ music always makes me feel so great…like taking a stroll through a melodic paradise! What have you found to be the most enticing aspects of his music?
JM: It’s the special way that the melody and chords blend together. It is very unique and emotional thing.
JazzUSA: I really like your rendition of “I’m Not Alone,” as sung by Freddy Cole. His voice is so elegant and really emphasizes Ivan Lins’ lyrical elegance. Did you choose Freddy Cole to sing this song for that very reason?
JM: I have known about Freddy for a while. I heard him sing on some of his own work as well as on some of Grover Washington, Jr.’s work. A very warm, confident voice. When I was talking to Telarc about the THE MUSIC OF IVAN LINS, they told me they were going to sign Freddy Cole and wanted to know how I felt about including Freddy on the project. I said that could be very cool. I spoke with Freddy and sent him a few songs. He really loved “I’m Not Alone.” He was a great artist to work with. Right on the money!
JazzUSA: I understand the appearance by Grover Washington, Jr. was one of his last performances. Jason, please share some highlights from the session with him.
JM: It is difficult to talk about Grover. Not having his vibe around is beyond words. I can tell you that he was in a great mood that night. (As always) He loved Ivan’s music and went into the studio and gave it that amazing sound and feeling that only Grover had. We ate some Japanese food, talked for a while and he did the song in typical fashion. I saw him a few weeks later and he was going to play on some more songs on the CD. I am extremely proud of that track and really miss Grover.
JazzUSA: We all do Jason and certainly appreciate your not procrastinating when the chance to work with him presented itself. We have some very nice memories on “Camaleao,” with you on keyboards and Grover ever so smooth. Smooth songs plus compelling musical arrangements from you equal A LOVE AFFAIR, THE MUSIC OF IVAN LINS and a chance for listeners to take a closer look through the musical vision of Jason Miles. The combining of Joe Sample and Ivan Lins on “Sweet Presence” as sung by Dianne Reeves was a brilliant idea! Please talk about their vibe!
JM: Joe Sample is one of my heroes. A special person and an inspiration as a musician and composer. Joe actually played on the song before Ivan. There is so much going on keyboard wise between the two of them on “Sweet Presence,” it’s amazing. Ivan came to the USA at the beginning of the year and stayed with us. We recorded with other musicians and he did his parts for the CD. We needed that elegant acoustic piano on it and I called Joe. As usual he added his magical touch.
JazzUSA: Is there a major show in the works featuring all of you in concert?
JM: A LOVE AFFAIR – THE MUSIC OF IVAN LINS was released September 26, 2000 and the release event and concert at Carnegie Hall in October was a tremendous success. We had a great time with Ivan Lins, Vanessa Williams, Dave Koz, Brenda Russell, Peter White and the phenomenal musicians that gave tirelessly of their energy, talent and passion for Ivan’s music.
JazzUSA: What an exciting evening it must have been, especially with such a stunning array of stars, the great Ivan Lins, and of course you, Jason!! Again, we wish to congratulate you on such a great accomplishment and the success the CD is having. Thank you for the interview, it’s a dream come true!
JM: Thank you Paula!
JazzUSA: Keep in touch with Jason Miles at http://www.telarc.com