Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Miles Davis: Decoy

Miles Davis (trumpet)
Decoy (Columbia; 1984)

Everyone (including me) loves to talk about Miles Davis' 60s and 70s albums which span from great promise to truly innovative. But what is sometime overlooked is Miles' material during the late 80s. This was generally a new, fresh and commercially popular period for Miles. His music gained a mass worldwide audience and he tour quite regularly. This popularity was no more evident then on the 1985 album, Decoy (Columbia). Now let me first say, not everyone likes this period for the exact reason mentioned--popularity. The music is sometimes a little generic and very electronically programmed (as was most of the jazz during this period). But I have to say I still really love this record.

Decoy I'm pretty sure is not among the favourite album of this time period either. Some of the history around Decoy is slightly irrelevant to the recording but this was recorded during a Canadian tour which Miles famously dissed the upcoming young turk named Wynton Marsalis. This was the part of a long running fued between the two confident trumpeters. The ironic part to all of this was that Wynton's older brother, Branford Marsalis plays on Decoy. While there is a reliance on keyboards and Miles seems a little distant throughout the session there are still some fine performances from the band including John Scofield (guitar), Mino Cinelu (percussion) and Robert Irving (and Miles Davis!) on keyboards.

Decoy is great mixture of funk, blues and rollicking fun as evident on the title track, "Freaky Deaky," "That's Right" (with some great solo work from the young Branford, and "What It Is". Don't get me wrong, on first listen for some this might sound very 80s and very dated but I really think the whole of Miles' 80s output needs to reexamined. The material during this period while immensely popular for the masses still has saw Miles trying to push jazz forward. There obviously not as great as the previous thirty years but albums such as Decoy will give you an insight into what Miles was thinking and how far he would take it.He would later absorb more influences of the day (even hip hop in the 90s and the famous are rare sessions with Prince--yes, "Purple Rain" Prince). Decoy is in a series a albums from 81 - 85 that you should check out with an open mind.

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