A New Generation Chases Miles Davis' Legacy

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Ed Gordon discusses jazz trumpeter Miles Davis' induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and gives a preview of his interview with contemporary jazz trumpet innovator Wallace Roney.

ED GORDON, host:

Today, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame brings a new batch of notables into the fold. Some of the rockers inducted include Black Sabbath, Blondie, the Sex Pistols, and yes, Miles Davis.

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GORDON: Miles Davis might be a name synonymous with jazz but his long career consisted of several phases of musical experimentation. In the late 1960s, Miles became intrigued by the electric sounds of Jimmy Hendrix. He'd been, surrounding himself with younger, more forward-looking musicians, like drummer Tony Williams and pianist Herbie Hancock. Miles began synthesizing jazz with funk and rock. The result: the genre known today as fusion.

His movement in that direction first came in 1969 with the album In A Silent way. Later that year, he recorded another classic: Bitches Brew.

Mr. WALLACE RONEY (Trumpeter): He just kept evolving. From Kinda Blue, to Miles Smiles, to In a Silent Way to Bitches Brew, you'll see a straight line.

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GORDON: Trumpeter Wallace Roney boasted the distinction of being a Miles Davis protégé.

Mr. RONEY: Bitches Brew, I think, is a landmark record for the music industry because there was a time when Miles took the innovations of Jimmy Hendrix and married it with his own innovations and just shook the world up. Miles, being the genius, was able to crystallize those things in such a way, unlike anything else before, and influenced everything up to this moment. Even hip-hoppers are influenced by the things that happened in the Bitches Brew.

Ms. CASSANDRA WILSON (Jazz Vocalist): The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame realizes the relationship between jazz music and rock and roll.

GORDON: Jazz Vocalist Cassandra Wilson credits Miles for influencing her own eclectic vision of music. She first heard Miles on the album, Sketches of Spain, during the period when Miles was exploring classical music.

Ms. WILSON: You know, I think that was my whole introduction to the whole idea of jazz being a universal language that can work in any context. Miles Davis was a great innovator and he was always building bridges. And there's so much evidence of that bridge building in his music, especially as it relates to rock and roll. So I'm really happy to hear that Miles Davis has made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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GORDON: Jazz Vocalist Cassandra Wilson. We also heard from Miles protégé, Trumpeter Wallace Roney. Roney has a new CD out; it's called "Mystical." Later in the program, we'll talk more with Roney about his own ambitious efforts to make great jazz music for the 21st century.

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GORDON: Coming up, NPR's Farai Chideya talks with a woman who's continuing the family tradition of speaking out.

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ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon. Next time, on NEWS AND NOTES, we'll discuss some surprising statistics that show that a large number of African Americans are moving back to the South. Plus, a look at the growing tensions between blacks and Arabs. That's next time, on NEWS AND NOTES from NPR News.

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