Monday, November 20, 2017
Family Ties
By Brandon I. Brooks (Entertainment Editor)
Published May 28, 2009


                                                        Erin Davis

                                                   Vince Wilburn, Jr.

Erin Davis and Vince Wilburn, Jr. the son and nephew of legendary Jazz musician Miles Davis, speaks exclusively with the Sentinel about their family legacy                                       

Erin Davis, son of late jazz icon Miles Davis, is a Venice-based musician/producer who heads the production company Ghost Media. He also runs Miles Davis Properties, LLC along with his sister Cheryl Davis and his cousin Vince Wilburn, Jr. Erin has toured with Miles and has also informally recorded with him. He has just wrapped production on the forthcoming Kyle Eastwood CD. He has also composed the score for the forthcoming independent film “Corked.” Previously, Erin was the drummer in EMI Records recording group Bloodline, an all-star rock group featuring the offspring of famous musicians.

Vince Wilburn, Jr. is a highly accomplished drummer and producer, who has both toured and recorded with Miles Davis on many legendary recordings from 1984 through 1987. His credits include the Grammy award winning album “AURA”, which Wilburn, Jr. co-produced; “Decoy” – which he also co-produced, “You’re Under Arrest” and the 2008 release “Miles From India” which is he played on and is also an associate producer.

In 1989 Wilburn, Jr. founded the production company NEFDRUM, whose projects include all-star performances by music icons Billy Preston, Ray Parker, Jr., Darryl Jones, Charley Drayton, Ivan Neville, Wah Wah Watson, Freddie Washington, Randy Hall and Phil Upchurch.

Currently Wilburn, Jr. and Davis are working on a full length hip-hop remix tribute album, to honor the classic recordings of Miles Davis with an array of name artists who have been influenced by Davis. Wilburn, Jr. most recently co-produced the Davis hip-hop, remix EP – Evolution of the Groove, featuring Nas and Santana.

The family is currently at work on a forthcoming Davis biopic, as Executive Producers, and they will also serve as executive producers of the film’s soundtrack. Don Cheadle is set to star as Davis, and Cheadle will also make his directorial debut.

Sentinel: How was it growing up and being a relative of Miles Davis?

Erin Davis (ED): I didn’t really grow up with him. I moved in with him when I was 15. When I was young I new who he was and then when I was 10, he called me and we got together. You know he started to come re-involved with me. I never thought of him around the house as the stature he attained. He was always cheap (laughs), right Vince?

Vince Wilburn, Jr. (VWJ): Yes (laughs).

(ED): You know you think about it in your mind but in the forefront, in your mind your thinking, he’ coming home or I have to get my homework done.

Sentinel: It was just the normal things?

(ED): Ya, it’s not like you know, Miles Davis is here! It’s just like anybody else. You want to impress your parents you want to do right. You want to make them happy, that kind of thing.

Sentinel: How about you Vince?

 (VWJ): When I was a kid, he use to come to Chicago where I grew up and my mom use to take me to the concerts and for some reason man I would always be mesmerized by the drummer. You know, I guess that’s why I’m playing drums. For some other reason my mother would always get my haircut and when she would cut my hair she would cut it close bald, and he (Miles Davis) would always thump me upside the head (laughs). He would see me, give me a thump upside the head and then a twenty-dollar bill.

There you go; at least he gave you some compensation (laughs).

(VWJ): But as I grew older and serious about music, he made it clear who he was and what he was about. Then when both Erin and I played with him and I am speaking for myself, we really knew because there was no nepotism. Please don’t believe that. You had show up and you had to produce or else.

When did you guys first pick up an instrument? When did you all catch your first music bug that you made you say, “You know what, I’m interested in doing this for me, and this has nothing to do with Dad or Uncle”?

(VWJ): For me I was a little drummer boy in Kindergarten. But I always had bands growing up like talent show bands competing against other bands in high school and grammar school. So I was spitting early and then just checking out not only Uncle Miles but also different groups that would come to the city. My boys and I would go to the gigs and the concerts and check everybody out.

(EM): For me, when I was 10 he called me on the phone and said I had to learn and instrument. He (Miles Davis) said you have to learn an instrument and I said ok, I want to learn how to play guitar and he said ok. So he got me a teacher, he got me a guitar and I took lessons for a while and then I stopped taking them and then I picked up the drums later and he said it looks like you want to learn how to play drums. He had a drum set in the basement which I still have and he says learn how to play this tape and it was “1999” by Prince. And he said learn how to play this, so went down there and I just stayed there until I got it. I kept rewinding it and trying it and I just kind of picked it up. I knew from watching Vince a littlie bit of what was doing, it just took a lot of practice. And that’s just kind of how I learned how to play is just by listening to tapes and watching people.

What I will do is transition into to more so some things that are going on currently. You can start Erin, why don’t you tell me a littlie bit about Ghost Media and the productions and how you transitioned into taking over your dad’s legacy?

(ED): Well Ghost Media is my personal production company, which is just kind of an overall umbrella for anything that I do. I just co-produced Kyle Eastwood’s record and I did some work on a movie called “Corked.” I did the score for that. I was supposed to be working on a movie this summer after they’re done shooting it, it’s an independent film, and I just enjoy working with other people. I have a studio and I work with various artists. I like producing other people more than being in a band with other people. If I am going to be in a band it’s going to be just me and I am the boss.

Vince you oversee Mile Davis Properties, LLC, correct?

(VWJ): Yes, we both do.

Why don’t you give me some more information about that and some of your focuses this year?

(VWJ): The Company consist of Erin and Cheryl, who is Miles daughter and Erin’s sister, and we oversee the brand Miles Davis, the likeness, the music, the catalog and anything pertaining to Miles (Davis). Right now we are gearing towards an opening in Paris of Miles and the music with his art, his clothes and musicians who have played with him. We have instruments on display and that’s opening up October 15, 2009. We are celebrating “Kind of Blue” 50th Anniversary. Erin and I just worked in the studio. We are going to release a special bootleg set of different Miles recordings live and in the studio that we never released. And we have a movie coming out with Don Cheadle who is going to star and direct. We are waiting on the script to be finished and Herbie Hancock is going to score it. We get grants and request for Miles to be licensed on the daily. At least, what Erin, like 2 or 3 times a day, right?

(ED): Well we work in tandem with Universal publishing and then on the record side we work with Sony legacy, Rhino Records, Concord and Capital. So you know request come in from all over the world. A lot of stuff comes in from Europe and Asia. They want to use songs for compilations, for television, commercials or whatever. Anywhere from Dog Whisper to Mobb Deep and P. Diddy.

(VWJ): We dig hip-hop. Like Erin said, it has to be tastefully representative of what Uncle Miles stood for.

On that note, aren’t you guys working on a hip hop remix LP?

(VWJ): We did one called Evolution of the Groove with Miles and Carlos Santana. But Erin and I are in negotiations to do an album, see that was just an EP. So we are talking to different people, we are reaching out to Kanye (West), Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine and we are just trying to put it together. Get a great budget and work out peoples schedule because people are all over the place.

Tell me about your Grammy Award winning project “Aura”, how was that experience?

(VWJ): It was surreal. Anytime you were around Miles you would strap your self and you just held on and you just trusted his instinct, which was very right on and right to the point. So “Aura” was recorded in Copenhagen, Denmark. We flew over and he (Miles Davis) heard some sounds he heard on the electric drums. He would mess with the drummer that was there and the acoustic drums. And that’s what happened, it won a Grammy. But he always knew what he wanted. Whatever was in his head he put out to the musicians and you know that’s what brought it home.

What next?

(ED): You have to stay tuned for what’s next?

(VWJ): Hey man, we will be back to talk to you we have a bunch of things. There is a vault of music and Erin and I fly to New York and listen to and try to pick out, meet with Sony and the various labels to release. So it’s an endless amount of music. So we just try to pick the best and try to agree on what needs to be released. The music speaks for itself.

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