Miles Davis performed in numerous countries throughout his half-century career, but India wasn’t one of them. He touched down there once, just long enough to refuel during a lengthy transcontinental flight, but never left the tarmac. Had he done so, says Bob Belden, producer of Miles From India-an ambitious new double-CD that teams 18 Davis alumni and nearly as many Indian musicians to re-imagine Miles’ music-he might have learned that in India, as in so many other places in this world, he is considered a legend.
The reason for that, explains Belden, is not so much that India has a sizable community of jazz enthusiasts-it doesn’t, yet-but rather that Miles, for a brief period in the early 1970s, hired two Indian musicians, sitarist Khalil Balakrishna and tabla drummer Badal Roy. The pair added Eastern flavorings to sessions that would ultimately comprise such Miles earthshakers as On the Corner, Big Fun and Get Up With It, and the Indians respected Davis’ willingness to expand the ways in which their traditional instrumentation could be utilized.