M.E.B. Honors Miles Davis With New Music

How this supergroup keeps the Chief’s spirit alive in the 21st century

M.E.B. with Ron Carter (Image: Sam Erickson)

Even in the year 2023, the music of Miles Davis continues to astound and inspire through the litany of comprehensive reissues that come out almost every year.

However, the Chief’s legacy is also being honored in real time thanks to the tireless work of M.E.B., short for the Miles Electric Band–an outfit comprised of alumini from the trumpet master’s groups from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s led by his nephew, renowned drummer Vince Wilburn, Jr.

In 2010, Wilburn, as bandleader and drummer, brought together an all-star ensemble of musicians to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Bitches Brew at the Sunset Junction Festival in Los Angeles. However, instead of performing a facsimile tribute to Miles’ genre-bending electric masterpiece, the group reimagined Miles, based on their own direct perceptions of his music, and created a fresh listening experience for a new generation.

When unreleased takes of Miles Davis studio performances from the ’80s came to their attention, Wilburn and fellow drummer Lenny White put their heads together to figure out how they could incorporate these unreleased tracks into new music. Produced by Lenny and Vince, “Hail to the Real Chief” was the first missive from the project, which paired Miles’ horn with new music written by Lenny performed by an all-star assembly of Miles band alumni and acolytes including Lenny (synthesizer), Vince (drums), Marcus Miller (bass), Emilio Modeste (tenor saxophone), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Antoine Roney (tenor saxophone), John Scofield (guitar), Bernard Wright (keyboards) and Quintin Zoto (guitar).

This original version of “Hail to the Real Chief” was one of the highlights of Emmy Award-winning documentary Miles Davis – Music From and Inspired by “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool,” a Film by Stanley Nelson, co-produced by Stanley Nelson and Vince Wilburn, Jr. and released February 2020.

However, the previously unreleased long version of “Chief” serves as the opening track for That You Not Dare To Forget, M.E.B.’s first studio effort that cements Davis’s place in the construct of modern sounds in this second decade of the 21st century. Miles would call what he created in the studio “Neighborhood Music,” and That You Not Dare To Forget is no doubt the epitome of this concept.

M.E.B. That You Not Dare To Forget, Legacy Recordings 2023

In addition to “Hail to the Real Chief (Long Version),” you can also hear Miles on “Bitches Are Back,” a cut that also features a sample of “Bridging The Gap,” the classic Nas track he did with his dad, NYC loft jazz legend Olu Dara and a new rap from modern mixtape hero Blu.

“Over My Shoulder” is another composition that feels like an aural block party as well, featuring such heavy hitters as Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, Rolling Stones bassist Darryl Jones, Donald Harrison on alto sax and some tight bars from up-and-coming lyricist Adrien Lamont. “Mellow Kisses” is perhaps the most special of the five compositions because it features Ron Carter from Miles’ great quintet of the 1960s on bass, while the album’s title track includes contributions from Jeremy Pelt on the horn and Lenny’s Return To Forever brother Stanley Clarke on bass plus a powerful spoken word performance by Rashae Reeves. 

Rock & Roll Globe recently caught up with Mr. Wilburn for insight into this enjoyable EP and the talent who participated in making it possible.


What prompted M.E.B to now go by the acronym?

Well, promoters started labeling us as a Miles tribute band. I call us Miles Davis University, we love Miles, but you know we tried to create some new music and evolve as Miles taught us. So, we thought what better way to do it than change it from the Miles Electric Band to M.E.B. Short, right to the point. Like R.E.M.!


I would love to hear more about the background of the Miles trumpet tracks you used for “Hail to the Real Chief” and “Bitches are Back.” Can you tell us more about them?

Well, Sony has some unreleased recordings of Miles in their vault. Lenny and I had the privilege to explore, and these two trumpet parts in particular, resonated with Lenny. He kept playing them over and over and over. And he said, “They fit right into the two new tracks,” and you know we dropped them right into what we were doing. Lenny was right. It was magic. It was from the electric period of Miles in the 80s.


What is the meaning behind the album title?

“That You Not Dare To Forget” was penned by Rashae Reeves for the spoken word track, and we thought there’s a message to this title, there’s a message to the spoken word track. And I think between Lenny, the record company Sony Legacy, and myself, we thought “this is a pretty cool title.” It was that simple.


You have the great Robert Irving III billed as the album’s musical director, and I’d love to know how his input factored into the album’s creation

When I started the project, I wanted a mixture of these All Stars and the band members but, everyone [most of the band members in M.E.B. were off doing different projects. They’re composers, they’re producers, they’re leaders. So when I started listening to the music, I said, “Well, it would be interesting to hear how Bobby would reconstruct these songs live.” So I said, “I’ve gotta give Bobby some love.” I’ve known Bobby for what, since Man With The Horn, and before that, what forty something years? Forty plus, and he is the very final and important part for M.E.B. So I had to give him love. That’s why you see musical director Robert Irving III, or as Miles used to call him, “Little Bobby.”

Hip-hop plays such a great role on That You Not Dare To Forget, and I’d love to know more about your own history with the culture. When did you first discover hip hop and rap music?

How long has rap been going, 50 years, 1973? I’ve been listening to hip hop and rap for 50 years, and I’m only 51! No, I’ve been listening to hip hop and rap since its inception. I’m a big fan. Some of my best friends and people who I respect and love and admire are hip hop artists… Nas, Q-Tip, A Tribe Called Quest, and the list goes on.


VIDEO: M.E.B. “Bitches Are Back”

 Nas, who is featured on Bitches Are Back, has enjoyed an amazing creative streak as of late with a string of excellent albums. And I was just wondering if you have been following this latest trajectory of his career?

I’ve been following Nas’s career since he started. And I was blessed and honored to work with Nas in 2006 with his father Olu Dara on a project called Evolution of the Groove. And that was amazing. We flew to Atlanta, and we worked at Dallas Austin’s studio, and you know, Nas loves music. He loves all types of music. And he loved Miles. His dad is a trumpeter, a jazz trumpeter, so you know he’s my man, he’s my go to. He’s one of my buddies and between he and Q-Tip, they’re my brothers.


You also feature Blu on that track, who I have heard before on an album before by the rapper Your Old Droog and would love to know how you linked up with him.

Well Blu, he did a Miles thing that I heard. Somebody sent it to me. He did a Miles sample and I thought, “well this cat is bad! I’d love to meet him!” So I reached out to my friend in Chicago, GQ. GQ reached out to Scud, one of the producers on the track. Scud called me and they said we would love to work with you. And so I sent them the track, “Bitches Are Back,” and they laced it with the verses and sent it back. But you know, it’s always who you know and how you move in the hip hop genre. It’s important. I can’t just call up anyone out of the blue. I have to go through channels. So, I want to thank Scud and GQ in Chicago for reaching out to Blu. And it’s funny because they’re in Chicago, Blu is in LA, but I went through Chicago to get back to Blu in LA. What you hear on the record is one of two takes.


I’m a big fan of Over My Shoulder as well with Vernon Reid. How far do you and Vernon go back?

Vernon and I go back to Living Colour of course. Will Calhoun is one of my best brothers, my close friends. Doug Wimbish, the bassist and Wells, the drummer,  and I go back. I’m a big Living Colour fan. So when we called Vernon to see if he was available to do the record, he said yes!  


Are there plans to take a touring version of M.E.B on the road?

M.E.B will be on the road starting in May at SF Jazz, but we’re going to premiere a lot of the new music from That You Not Dare To Forget in the fall on a fall tour, starting in September. But if you go to mileselectricband.com you’ll see the tour as we post it. We’re looking forward to it.


What is next from the Miles Davis archives?

There’s two or three projects that we’re gonna be announcing, but please go to milesdavis.com and the Miles Davis Channel on SiriusXM for the coming announcements!



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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

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