May 24, 2024

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CD review: Miles Davis – That’s What Happened 1982-1985: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7 – 2022: Video, CD cover

Few musicians generated as much hate and love as Miles Davis. Every time this serial re-inventor changed musical directions, fans howled or grudgingly followed. If you loved his cool jazz, you hated his bop. Fans of his bop period despised his turn to fusion.

And even the fusion lovers were baffled by his leap into funk. This set explores Davis’ final studio recordings for Columbia Records—the label he signed with in the 1950s—when he was still searching for new sounds and unwilling to be anything less than a moving target despite his powers on the trumpet being much reduced. It also provides clues to several still-controversial Miles mysteries: Did he have anything important left to say after 1975?

Are the albums Davis made after his return to music in 1980 just a noodley, disappointing anti-climactic finale to a brilliant career? And when in 1985, he covered a Michael Jackson hit on the You’re Under Arrest album was it a travesty or a bold artistic risk?

In 1975 after a run of increasingly raw and aggressive live albums, Davis dropped out of music altogether and holed up in his apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, going on something of a five-year binge. After several tentative steps that included The Man with the Horn (1981), the live Grammy-winning set We Want Miles (1982), Davis (now married to model-turned-actress Cicely Tyson, who helped pull him out of his half-decade bender) recorded Star People (1983) and Decoy (1984).

On those records, Davis was again changing his music, this time leaning not only into Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and other pop music of the time but also the emerging electronics and software revolution that continues to this day. According to an interview from that era quoted in the liner notes Davis said, “I like strong melodies, broken rhythm, and colors from the synthesizers.” That sums up much of the content on these unreleased outtakes from his 1980s recording sessions.

Captured during the Star People sessions, the mix of the previously unreleased tune “Santana” is the template for much later Miles: muscular funk rhythms over which he, saxophonist Bill Evans, and guitarist Mike Stern solo. The two-part “Minor Ninths” from the same sessions is an interesting duo combination of trombonist J.J. Johnson and Miles on keyboards.

Another unreleased Star People track, “Remake of OBX Ballad,” heard in two versions here, also features Davis playing only the Oberheim synthesizer. In the much-derided pop tunes from You’re Under Arrest (“Time After Time” and “Human Nature”), which undoubtedly brought Davis to an entirely new audience, he mirrors the song’s well-known vocal parts on trumpet. Taken at a leisurely tempo, the unreleased version of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It” from those sessions with Bob Berg on soprano sax is a minor revelation.

A particularly wonderful touch sprinkled in among the studio material are the snatches of Davis’ inimitable whispery voice left in at the end of tracks. Also included is a 1983 performance recorded live in Montreal at the Théâtre St. Denis by Guy Charbonneau/Le Studio Mobile Montreal, much of which confirms Davis was still committed to his discovery of the late ’70s, namely darting his trumpet in and out over rumbling funk grooves.

Besides Evans, guitarist John Scofield, who first made a name for himself as a Davis’ sideman, is featured on tracks like the upbeat, “What It Is.” Davis’ rendition of “Star People” belies the oft-heard complaint that by the 1980s he no longer had the desire nor the chops to dig in and play. Equally adored and misunderstood, Davis’ restless creativity always provoked questions. Asked in the 1980s why he changed his music so many times, he replied “You don’t change music, music changes you.”

01. Miles Davis – Santana [13:05]
02. Miles Davis – Minor Ninths, Part 1 [03:12]
03. Miles Davis, J.J. Johnson – Minor Ninths, Part 2 [04:31]
04. Miles Davis – Celestial Blues, Part 1 [08:03]
05. Miles Davis – Celestial Blues, Part 2 [04:00]
06. Miles Davis – Celestial Blues, Part 3 [05:56]
07. Miles Davis – Remake Of OBX Ballad [04:57]
08. Miles Davis – Remake Of OBX Ballad (Full Studio Session) [07:15]
09. Miles Davis – Freaky Deaky, Part 1 [09:49]
10. Miles Davis – Freaky Deaky, Part 2 [05:25]
11. Miles Davis – Time After Time (Alternate) [05:53]
12. Miles Davis – Time After Time (Full Studio Session) [08:56]
13. Miles Davis – Theme From Jack Johnson (Right Off) / Intro [08:30]
14. Miles Davis – Never Loved Like This (Studio Session Demo) [05:00]
15. Miles Davis – Hopscotch (Slow) [05:34]
16. Miles Davis – Hopscotch (Fast) [07:00]
17. Miles Davis – What’s Love Got To Do With It [04:21]
18. Miles Davis – Human Nature (Alternate) [06:00]
19. Miles Davis – Katia (Full Studio Session) [10:23]
20. Miles Davis – Speak (That’s What Happened) (Live at Theatre St-Denis, Montreal, Canada – July 7, 1983) [12:51]
21. Miles Davis – Star People (Live at Theatre St-Denis, Montreal, Canada – July 7, 1983) [09:23]
22. Miles Davis – What It Is (Live at Theatre St-Denis, Montreal, Canada – July 7, 1983) [06:45]
23. Miles Davis – It Gets Better (Live at Theatre St-Denis, Montreal, Canada – July 7, 1983) [12:32]
24. Miles Davis – Hopscotch (Live at Theatre St-Denis, Montreal, Canada – July 7, 1983) [07:18]
25. Miles Davis – Star On Cicely (Live at Theatre St-Denis, Montreal, Canada – July 7, 1983) [09:11]
26. Miles Davis – Jean-Pierre (Live at Theatre St-Denis, Montreal, Canada – July 7, 1983) [04:50]
27. Miles Davis – Code 3 (Live at Theatre St-Denis, Montreal, Canada – July 7, 1983) [09:27]
28. Miles Davis – Creepin’ In (Jam) (Live at Theatre St-Denis, Montreal, Canada – July 7, 1983) [10:42]

That's What Happened 1982-1985: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7, Miles Davis -  Qobuz

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