Vail Jazz Alumni: Miles Mosley attended the very first Vail Jazz Workshop and now blends his training with favorite musical influences
Vail Jazz Alumni
Editor’s note: Over the past 25 years, nearly 300 teenage musicians have been transformed by the Vail Jazz Workshop; a large majority have gone on to become professional musicians. This is one of their stories.
At age 16, Miles Mosley couldn’t have imagined the extent of his success yet to come: performing at Red Rocks or touring the world doing what he loves – playing music. While attending the very first Vail Jazz Workshop back in 1996, the young musician did get some inkling that something magical was transpiring. It instilled a powerful taste of what his future held.
“To be able to get on a plane and go fly somewhere to make music was an amazing opportunity in and of itself,” Mosley said in a recent interview with Vail Jazz’s Connor Williams. “I didn’t come from a wealthy family. I certainly didn’t come from a family that did a ton of traveling, so to be able to go to a camp was an affirmative experience because it made it feel real. It felt like music can actually take you somewhere. That’s an important feeling confidence-wise to have as a high school kid who doesn’t know how to feel about anything.”
Now 39, the upright bass player who grew up in Los Angeles, learned a lot of things during the week he spent in Vail back in 1996. Learning from workshop founder and fellow bass aficionado John Clayton and a team of pro mentors, Mosley made discoveries about himself and his musical talents that he had never before realized. He was one of 10 teenage musicians participating in the workshop.
“It was encouraging to be creative and express yourself on top of learning what you learned from the group. We played a song that ended with … ‘ba ba da da da da ba’ (sings all but the end of “Shave and A Haircut”), and we walked off the stage,” Mosley said. “We thought that was the most clever thing that has ever happened in the history of jazz. We were so proud of ourselves for thinking outside of the box. I was studying with John. It was a great experience … great experience.”
While he was here, Mosley met fellow teen musical prodigy Ryan Porter. The two have “been brothers in arms since then,” forming the West Coast Get Down, one of LA’s most popular ensembles.
“The immersiveness of (the Vail Jazz Workshop) allowed for a lot of sharing of ideas not only with my peers but with legends and heroes and professors and people who have really changed what was possible in (jazz),” Mosley said. “To be able to be in a room constantly surrounded by people at the height of their abilities and your heroes, whether it’s a basketball camp or a spelling bee convention or a jazz summit like Vail Jazz, it changes people’s lives … kids’ lives.”
The experience set the path for West Coast Get Down, whose genre-defying, out-of-the-box sound exemplifies the creative approach for which Mosley feels he has, in part, the Vail Jazz Workshop to thank.
“The music can begin to envelop all of the styles that we love. Cameron Graves (of West Coast Get Down) loves death metal. When he sits down and plays the piano, no matter what he’s playing, there’s death metal in it. I love Joni Mitchell and Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding, and when I play the upright bass, that stuff is gonna leak in. Kamasi Washington loves Snoop Dogg. It’s gonna leak into the music. We learned jazz, and we studied it properly, and we show respect to it and we honor it — where it came from, what it is, what it’s going to always be — and then we contextualized it into our experience of the world,” Mosley said. “We held a mirror up to society to reflect that and it came out in our music.”
In addition to his work with West Coast Get Down, Mosley composes scores for film and TV and has shared the stage or recorded with Cee Lo Green, Chris Cornell, Lauryn Hill, Rihanna, Korn and many more standout stars from every imaginable musical genre. His most recent solo single, “Brother,” shows Mosley on both vocals and bass. He has an LP slated to come out later this year.
Shauna Farnell is a public relations and marketing consultant for Vail Jazz. She has a background in journalism, including a stint at the Vail Daily, and she freelances for several publications. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.