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To genuinely emulate and articulate the writing and performance style of Miles Davis--a
musical icon, one of the most prolific and recognized musicians of the
last century--is a daunting task, one that becomes vital to the entire
sonic aesthetic of a film responsible for depicting this true
innovator's message. Cue modern luminary Keyon Harrold: the GRAMMY® Award-winning platinum trumpeter/writer/producer who proved a natural fit for critically acclaimed actor Don Cheadle who wrote, directed, and starred in the legendary trumpeter's biopic, in collaboration with Robert Glasper
who scored the film's soundtrack. A powerful turning point for the
Ferguson-native, Harrold has surpassed his already stellar career
highlights--collaborating with dozens of the world's greatest musical
pioneers and revolutionaries by channeling one of his greatest musical
heroes, Miles Davis: a welcomed landmark to preface the imminent release
of Harrold's next project as a leader.
For the new Miles Ahead
film, Cheadle appears to be performing so in sync with these
provocative compositions that it's hard to believe he didn't play them
himself. Harrold is actually the sound behind all of those passionate
on-screen performances, except, of course, for the vintage Davis
recordings used in the biopic.
an actor learn to play a composition well enough to portray it on
screen is the industry standard, however in this instance, Cheadle--who
had been taking trumpet lessons for four years before
shooting--improvised his own fingerings on film, to which Harrold then
composed in post-production and sometimes simultaneously on set. But
composing music in sync with an actor's fingering isn't the only
obstacle Harrold faced; the music had to authentically convey the
signature Miles Davis sound.
impossible what he did. Often what we do as actors is, after we film
the movie, we go into a recording studio and overdub anything that needs
to be made clear," explains Cheadle, speaking on a panel with Harrold
and Glasper at SXSW. "This is tricky enough when using your own voice.
But what Keyon had to do was watch what we are doing and what I was
playing as a trumpeter and sync over that. They had to play over action
scenes where they would improvise over our improv, which isn't really
possible; but he did it."
takes a special talent to not only write to what you see someone
performing, but it's a rare skill--and a true testament to Harrold's
exceptional talent--to write not only to match what's on screen, but to
parallel the unmistakable sound of Miles Davis. "I had been planning for
this opportunity all of my life in many ways. Coming from St. Louis, my
mother first bought me Miles's records when I was very young just so I
could learn the horn. He was, in many ways, one of my first teachers,"
says Harrold. "I first learned his sound so that I could then discover
my own. But my life also prepared me in ways I didn't expect. Some of
the defining moments that shaped Miles's career as captured in the plot
of the movie have also happened to me and, just as I hear how his sound
is influenced by those experiences, I too find myself pouring the
emotions of those trying moments into my own music."
known is how Harrold's own life and his contribution to music exemplify
many parallels to Davis himself, not the least of which is their shared
passion to create "social music" rather than be pigeon-holed by the
jazz improvisational virtuosity for which they are both famed. Miles
Davis is one of the greatest of all time; and Harrold is often noted by
contemporaries and critics as one of the greatest trumpeters of his
generation today. Harrold's vision enriches the trumpet, songwriting,
and contemporary music with a fresh voice for these complicated times.
His music resists conformity, re-imagines genres without boxes or
boundaries, and represents the spirit of the social movements that also
inspire his sound-just as Davis did in his own career. With this latest
film release, he is now connected forever to the legacy of one of the
leading music innovators of the modern era.
own voice was added to the film as well as an integral part of the
movie's plot: Davis has to take notice of the fierce talent of a young
successor: Junior. "For Junior's portrayal, Don asked for something that
was like Freddie Hubbard, pyrotechnic, and fast and just in your face,"
explains Glasper. "So I told Keyon to play like himself." While Junior
was of Davis' time, Harrold's music skillfully showcases the lineage of
current artists who are inspired and informed by Davis and serves as a
tribute to what has evolved from Harrold's own body of music.
Photo Credit: Deneka Peniston
Keyon Harrold the goal is, as it was for Miles Davis, simply to
innovate the continuum of music, fusing various genres to tell the
stories of our time. No stranger (nor prisoner) to the worlds of
hip-hop, R&B, jazz, gospel, pop, soul, all music in fact. Harrold,
like Davis, is never bound by the distinctions of genre categories, but
rather inspired by how they inform each other.
While Harrold has been noted by publications such as JazzTimes
as one of the best new artists of 2015, he has served as a coveted
secret weapon crucial to the sounds of artists ranging from Gregory
Porter, Will Calhoun, and Dr. Lonnie Smith, to Jay Z, Kanye West,
Beyoncé, Common, Lauryn Hill, Mary J Blige, Erykah Badu, LL Cool J, 50
Cent, and Mobb Deep, including touring stints with artists like
D'Angelo, Eminem, and Rihanna. The trumpeter also served as an integral
part of R&B star Maxwell's two-time GRAMMY® Award-winning album Black Summer's Night. Harrold released his debut album, Introducing Keyon Harrold,
in 2009; the highly anticipated follow up release is coming later in
2016 and will capture his journey through these many styles of music to
where he has now arrived as one of the most distinct musical voices to
emerge on the scene.
Harrold appears on four tracks of MILES AHEAD - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, available now via Columbia/Legacy. For inquiries regarding the soundtrack, please contact