What ‘Rubberband’ Reveals About Miles Davis’s Final Act

What ‘Rubberband’ Reveals About Miles Davis’s Final Act


For Davis, she says, “it gave him an opportunity to show a vulnerability, and to show a side of him that in the real world he could not show.”

When Davis recorded “Rubberband,” he was married to the actress Cecily Tyson, whom he credited with having saved him from a near-fatal drug habit, but whom he eventually physically abused — as he had many other romantic partners. Unfortunately, the film does not tell the story of their relationship (though it wisely gives generous screen time to Frances Taylor Davis, the musician’s first wife, who had a profound impact on his work). And it skips over most of the groundbreaking music he made in the 1980s.

In the studio, making what became “Rubberband,” he kept up an avuncular demeanor with Mr. Wilburn and his team of much younger musicians, even as he sometimes behaved monstrously behind closed doors.

“If the session started at 12, he’d be there by 10:30, ready to play,” Mr. Hall said. “He would bring candy and little stuff for us to eat in bowls. He prepared the room, because we were going to be there all day.”

Many of the 11 tracks on “Rubberband” have been doctored and updated, with lush vocals and drum sounds added in an attempt to pull the album into 2019 — and to fulfill Davis’s dream of making songs friendly to the radio.

But Mr. Wilburn, Mr. Hall and their fellow producer Attala Zane Giles are now in their 50s or early 60s, roughly the age Davis was when he recorded this material. They did not draw upon younger musicians to help them update the album, as Davis certainly would have, so their attempts to modernize certain tracks with contemporary accouterments often miss the mark. Pieces like “So Emotional,” with lead vocals from the neo-soul virtuoso Lalah Hathaway, and “Rubberband of Life” — a remix of the album’s original title tune, with a beat somewhere between backpack rap and trip-hop — land in a mixed-up middle ground, straddling the ’80s and today.



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