“Everything’s Beautiful”. These are words that Miles used during a late-60’s session when introducing drummer Joe Chambers to an electric piano, which at that time was something new, something exciting and something that for Miles and his fellow musicians symbolised a step into the future. If any quote from Miles truly sums up his feelings towards musical progression, it’s this one. For this reason, Everything’s Beautiful is the perfect title for this Robert Glasper masterminded project, as these words alone go a long way to answering a question that Glasper poses with this release; would Miles, were he still alive today, be open to working with the likes of the contemporary hip-hop and R&B artists Glasper is working with here?
One of the most impressive aspects of Everything’s Beautiful is that it finds Glasper managing to make what is essentially a producer’s tribute album feel more like a posthumous Miles Davis collaboration, as if the great man himself is indeed working with, and lending his compositional genius to, Glasper and his host of primarily cotemporary guest artists. When it works, as with the silky smooth Ghetto Walkin’
and the funky and energetic reimagining of Milestones
, it works tremendously. The former sees a typically fluid, soulful performance from Bilal float effortlessly over a sample of the long-time unreleased Miles’ outtake The Ghetto Walk
, whilst the latter features a fantastic production job from Georgia Anne Muldrow, taking its namesake Miles tune into new realms.
However things don’t always quite hit the mark, like Phonte’s rather mediocre and unfitting rap in Violets
for example which leaves us with a somewhat unremarkable Nujabes-esque jazz-rap affair, which despite being built around a pleasant enough sample of Miles’ Blue in Green
, somehow feels lacking in that Miles character and spirit. Similarly disappointing is the appearance of Hiatus Kaiyote whose contribution manages to go by almost unnoticed on the inoffensive Little Church
, which does little to justify its near-seven minute run time. On the other hand, despite also feeling slightly overlong on first listen, The Erykah Badu assisted Maiysha (So Long)
manages to play off Miles’ slow burning composition much more successfully.
Worthy of note is the fact that rather than focussing on Miles’ musicianship, Glasper has chosen to look at Davis’ skills as a composer and his influence on the musicians he assembled around him, deciding to include surprisingly little of his famed trumpet playing. This, by and large, is to the benefit of Everything’s Beautiful
, allowing for greater experimentation with composition and a stronger focus on mood. Silence is the Way
for example manages to retain the mood and atmosphere of its original Miles composition brilliantly, whilst Glasper slaps his hardest hitting beat over the top, which he manages to make gel surprisingly well with the slow moving instrumental backdrop and Laura Mvula’s smooth vocal, creating what is a clear album highlight.
The very nature of a project like Everything’s Beautiful
all but guarantees a few lowlights amongst some clear standouts and that’s exactly what we get with this album. Naturally some ideas work better than others but one thing that remains a constant is Glasper’s devotion to creating something true to the spirit of Miles’ music and the spirit of Miles himself, which brings us back to the ever-present question running through this project. And the answer? Well, everything is beautiful…