Thursday, October 20, 2011

Miles Davis: Tutu

Miles Davis (trumpet)
Tutu Deluxe Edition (Warner; 2011)

Well, its been a very busy year on the Miles Davis estate front. There have been a slew of official and unofficial releases. All surprisingly with good merit. The latest, a deluxe edition of the the 1986 album, Tutu.

Originally both loved and derided by fans and critics alike, it has somehow stood the test of time. It's not a terrific album by any means but it does show Miles continuing to play with funky/snyth rhythms of the early '80s and trying to carve out a new voice.

On Tutu, his trumpet sounds inspired even while it lacks a little bit of the strength that even the last few Columbia records possessed. The production was crisp and musicianship also pretty sharp (for the '80s). The album marked one of the few moments when Miles would make subtle political statements, hence the tilted, named after Bishop Desmond Tutu. Miles didn't really speak about the political message he was trying to convey; instead keeping the focus on the music. He had only discussed it a few times in interviews.

The album opens with the forceful impact of the blues funk title track. Miles has a soft tone that actually blends well with the synthesizers and thumping basslines provided by the soon to be long relationship with Marcus Miller. One of the best tracks from the session, "Portia" is a sweet ballad which Miles allows the band to move from freely. The drums and percussion provided by Paulinho da Costa are simplified here but complement Miller's Brazilian vibe that the piece captures. As with Miles' expanding venture into pop music, he includes a cover of British pop/alternative band Scritti Politti's "Perfect Way," which is startling (if you already know the original) but still quite affective in this funky jazz arrangement.

The snyth sound that Miles had absorbed on his last few Columbia albums blossoms under the influence of Marcus Miller here. While Tutu obviously doesn't stand up against anything Miles produced prior it is one of the last albums (with the addition of its follow up Amandla) that still retain a rich source of quality instrumentation and organization. 

The deluxe edition of Tutu comes with a bonus CD of live material from the Nice Festival in 1986. This concert is more a stage for the band than it is Miles but its a solid performance nonetheless. A Chicago blues treatment is given to the classic "New Blues" that makes it feel fresh and lively. Roben Ford plays guitar in this octet and feels a lot more steady than John Scofield did a few years prior.

Bob Berg, always superb, standout throughout this evening of hot jazz-funk. His extended solo work on "Maze" is smokin', while Steve Thornton and Felton Crews provide a pounding backbeat on percussion and drums. "Splatch" features some heavy percussion and bass but is offset by Berg and Miles employing some beautiful harmonic work. This concert has some great sound quality and stands up better than the studio album. It's feels like a giant jam session.

The Tutu deluxe edition is well worth whatever you pay for it. An important document in the late and final period of Miles' career. You may feel it's dated from an ideas point of view but if you think about the jazz of that decade you start to realize Tutu was one of few treasured moments. Recommended.

1 comment:

  1. Simply Classic miles davis. This video is an example of how Miles managed to steer the musical form in the direction that he had decided. Miles is really up on your toes! This style is heard less often these days, where the groove is often quantized to the metronome-like precision. Great music!