THE BARGAIN BUY: Miles Davis; Tutu (Warners)

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Miles Davis: Tomaas
THE BARGAIN BUY: Miles Davis; Tutu (Warners)

For Davis' most pure jazz followers who had forgiven him the street corner funk of the late Sixties/early Seventies, the trumpter was a lost cause on his return in '81 after almost a decade without any new studio material.

From Man with the Horn to Your Under Arrest ('85) he was widely criticised for simply failing to play trumpet in any meaningful way. The live We Want Miles also handed a lot of solo space to kiss-the-sky guitarist Mike Stern and so for many jazz fans Davis was no longer in the church.

When Davis' longtime label Columbia signed Wynton Marsalis in the Eighties it would have been akin to EMI signing the Monkees in '67 because the Beatles had gone too drugged-up weird - and they knew there was a market for lovable mop-top poppers.

In Marsalis, Columbia had another young Miles.

Davis quit Columbia after a bust-up (see interview here, he says company boss rang him and suggested he call Wyton and wish him happy birthday, and that was an insult too far).

By this time Davis also wasn't shifting units anyway so a new contract (at Warners) must have been a tempting opportunity for another reinvention.

Tutu -- his debut for Warners -- was Davis' best album in many years and although some still argued he wasn't playing as he once did, the settings of ambient electro-funk by Marcus Miller (who played most other instruments) were terrific. They offered Davis a cinematic backdrop much as Gil Evans had done (in a very different way of course) in earlier decades.

Tutu could have been the album where Davis hooked up with Prince but -- as with the abandoned sessions with Hendrix -- nothing eventuated.

No matter, because Tutu let Davis loose on sassy material like the funky Splatch (with a nod to Herbie Hancock's Rockit) and Perfect Way (the Scritti Politti song) -- and although at times Davis sounds like a guest on his own sessions, such is the command of Miller and others, this is one Davis album which not only felt groundbreaking for the artist but was arguably his last truly satisfying studio album.JB_HZ_CHEAP_long

Tutu -- in that striking cover by Irving Penn -- should be in any sensible jazz or funk collection.

And that is possible because the remastered version is now available at $10 from JB Hi-Fi stores (here).

A bargain. 

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mark - Sep 3, 2010

Nothing much was happening in jazz in the mid 80s when Tutu was released. Nothing much had happened in jazz since the fusion era. "Straight Jazz" was dead and sales had dropped dramatically.

In the UK there was a small jazz revival with Gilles Peterson and others starting the "jazz dance" scene (i know 'cos I was there).

This release by Miles was very interesting indeed and it can argued that it stated the "smooth jazz" sub genre. From then on it was seen as OK for jazz to be given a bit of a "pop" production lick. Miles did come back with a bang on this release and showed that he was still an innovator. The release relaunched Miles, not as a hard-out Bop player but as a musician who had the genius to evolve with the times. It’s just a pity that “smooth jazz” grew and grew and gave us Kenny G.

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