Singer-songwriter and composer Laura Mvula meets jazz musicians Jason Yarde and Laura Jurd, and music broadcaster journalist Kevin Le Gendre, to discuss her musical inspiration, the visionary American jazz musician Miles Davis.
'He has always been and will always remain one of the greatest inspirations of my musical life. To me he was and is an icon, a pioneer, the unique innovator. He never held himself back - maybe that's what first attracted me to him and his sound'.
Picking up on these opening remarks, and in the company of three contributors with contrasting perspectives on the man and his music, Mvula and her guests consider the impact and legacy of Miles Davis, a unique musician who repeatedly reinvented himself musically, and single-handedly shape-shifted the language of jazz, for nearly half a century. With glimpses of music from Miles Davis's vast discography, the programme paints a unique and personal portrait of one of the 20th century's greatest musical creators and iconclasts.
Laura Mvula is one of the most exciting music talents to emerge in Britain in recent years. Growing up in Birmingham's Kings Heath to parents from Jamaica and St Kitts, Mvula cut her musical teeth singing in and directing local church and gospel choirs, and performing with soul group Judyshouse, before going on to Birmingham Conservatoire to study composition with, among others, composer Joe Cutler. After working as a music supply teacher in Birmingham schools, she sent demo recordings of her songs to record labels; the result has been spectacular international success that ranges from touring the world with her band, to composing for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Laura Mvula cites Miles Davis as one of her greatest influences - first urged by her father to watch documentaries about him, then given albums by a relative, her initial puzzlement grew into unbounded admiration for a black musician who refused utterly to be bounded by musical style or social position. His appetite for musical innovation and experiment, his dismissal of the idea of musical mistakes, his vision for successful creative collaboration - all of these characteristics and more combined to create a template for the sort of musician Laura Mvula has aspired to become. In this documentary feature, Laura sounds out her thoughts in the company of three guests, all of whom are equally great admirers of Miles Davis, but who approach him from different perspectives.
Mvula's guests are:
Kevin Le Gendre is a journalist and broadcaster with a special interest in black music. Deputy editor of Echoes, he contributes to a wide range of publications that include Jazzwise, MusicWeek, Vibrations and The Independent On Sunday and also appears as a commentator and critic on radio programmes such as BBC Radio 3's Jazz On 3 and BBC Radio 4's Front Row.
Laura Jurd is a British award-winning trumpet player, composer and bandleader and BBC New Generation Jazz Artist for 2015-2017. Highly active throughout the UK scene, Laura has developed a formidable reputation as one of the most creative young musicians to emerge from the UK in recent years.
In 2015 Laura received the Parliamentary Jazz Award for 'Instrumentalist of the Year' and in the past has been shortlisted for a BASCA British Composer Award, received the Dankworth Prize for Jazz Composition and the Worshipful Company of Musician's Young Jazz Musician of the Year award. Her band Dinosaur is one of the most vital and creative new ensembles in the UK today, and in September 2016, the band's debut album 'Together, As One' was released on Edition Records.
Jason Yarde is a saxophonist, composer, arranger, producer, and musical director who writes music across various styles including jazz, classical, hip-hop, fusion, free improvisation, broken beats, R&B, reggae, soul, song writing and for a variety of media: his BBC Proms compositional debut 'Rhythm and Other Fascinations' won the first ever BASCA award for 'Contemporary Jazz Composition' in 2010.
Yarde began playing alto and soprano saxophones with the Jazz Warriors while a teenager, and went on to MD this landmark orchestra. He is a longtime sideman of Louis Moholo, and has appeared in the big bands of Sam Rivers, Hermeto Pascoal, McCoy Tyner, Manu Dibango, Roy Ayers, and Andrew Hill.
Producer: Lyndon Jones for Music Department, BBC Wales.