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In appreciation of Miles Davis' 1980s material

Discussion in 'Music to Your Ears' started by srblue5, Nov 22, 2020 at 1:54 PM.

  1. srblue5

    srblue5 Tele-Meister

    Oct 12, 2020
    I grew up with Miles Davis' music from an early age, particularly the Columbia Years box set that came out in the '80s (which my dad bought and introduced to me when I was 4 years old). I've always loved the sound of Miles' muted trumpet and I'm a big fan of his pre-fusion work. There's something so evocative and familiar about that sound. My dad was probably a bigger fan of the fusion stuff (particularly as a diehard fan of John McLaughlin on guitar) but I never quite got into it as much, although I can certainly appreciate how groundbreaking it was/is.

    But what about his '80s comeback material? (For reference, Miles went into retirement from circa 1975-1980, returning with The Man With The Horn in '81 or so and continued recording/performing until he passed in 1991).

    A lot of my music/jazz-loving friends tend to dismiss Miles' '80s comeback material -- too dated-sounding ('80s synths, synth drums, pop influences, etc.), less memorable compositions, Miles no longer being an innovator in jazz and seeming to follow trends and fashions, being too commercial, dressing rather peculiarly onstage, etc.

    However, for some reason, I love quite a bit of Miles' '80s music. Granted, not all of the recordings are winners and I wouldn't necessarily recommend his '80s work first to someone who wasn't familiar with Miles (I'd say start with Kind of Blue or 'Round About Midnight), but I really think he continued to push the envelope for himself and came up with some creative, challenging, yet very listenable/accessible works. I can still listen to Miles' '80s work without feeling it's kitschy in a way that I find a lot of late '70s jazz-fusion/smooth jazz is (no offence to anyone who likes it), even if some of the musical elements are indeed dated.

    My two favourite albums from that era of Miles are Tutu and Amandla. Again, not every song on those two albums is a winner (some of them sound like they could almost pass as backing tracks for Prince or Michael Jackson), but the standouts for me are "Tutu", "Portia" (so beautifully hypnotic and meditative -- time literally stands still for me when I listen to that one), "Cobra", and "Hannibal". One of the things that strikes me about Miles' pre-fusion music for me is that when I listen to it, I can almost see myself wandering the streets of NYC at night in the '40s or '50s. I get that same vibe from those two albums, except that the decade is the '80s instead.

    Some criticized his covers of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" and Michael Jackson's "Human Nature", but I absolutely love what Miles' treatment of them. I appreciate Lauper's original but Miles' version of "Time After Time" almost reduces me to tears every time I hear it.

    Let's not forget that Miles continued to collaborate with amazing musicians during that decade, including Mike Stern, Robben Ford, John Scofield, Marcus Miller (who provided most of the instrumentation on Tutu including programming the drum machines in such a way that they could actually swing!), Darryl Jones, etc.

    Maybe I'm crazy? Maybe it's nostalgia for a decade I grew up in? I don't know. All I know is that some of Miles' '80s music would rank in my personal Top 20 of Miles Davis.
    Greggorios and PhredE like this.
  2. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Holic

    Sep 25, 2017
    Suburban PDX, OR
    Agree. Some don't like the 80s era Miles' music (well, as much as the earlier stuff..) but when you consider the scope and scale of talent he worked with, wow! there are no slackers in that group of players you mentioned. Good post.
    Greggorios and srblue5 like this.
  3. stantheman

    stantheman Doctor of Teleocity

    Jun 10, 2003
    White Mountains
    OK, the most important thing about Miles to remember is that before the fire burns out there is one last burst that
    reminds us all of what was once.
    In Miles Davis case that would be the soundtrack “Dingo”
    Miles is in great form for both the film and its’ accompanying score special extra credit to Chuck Findley
    who played Trumpet as the one influenced by Billy Cross (Miles) if You’re into Miles this is a “must have” and is as
    great as anything else that bears his name.

    So great that I own the film too. Australian.
    Greggorios and srblue5 like this.
  4. bsman

    bsman Friend of Leo's

    Jun 8, 2003
    Santa Clara

  5. beanluc

    beanluc Tele-Meister

    Aug 27, 2020
    California Bay Area
    Mission accomplished?

    Miles loved those guys.
    PhredE likes this.
  6. Greggorios

    Greggorios Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jun 18, 2016
    I'll second that. It's a wonderful interpretation that stands on it's own.
    srblue5 likes this.
  7. lupowitz

    lupowitz Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 31, 2007
    I'm with you on the '80s Miles-thing but, I'd stop before Tutu :)

    But that 5 (The man with the horn, Star people, We want Miles, Decoy, You are under arrest), are all in my favorite records of all time.

    He had this magic of bringing the best out of anybody -in that regard he was pretty much ,like Zappa, I guess- and the folks, who played with him, never even neared the heights they reached with him.
    Especially Stern.
  8. wyclif

    wyclif Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 29, 2011
    This will date me, but You're Under Arrest was released a month before I graduated high school and even though it's not my fave Miles album, it's the one that speaks to my generation the most because of those covers.

    (By the way, in another 80's moment, Sting is the French voice heard on Track #1).

    My fave fusion-era Miles Davis records are:

    In a Silent Way
    Jack Johnson
    On the Corner
    Get Up With It
    ("He Loved Him Madly", Miles' tribute to Duke Ellington, is genius)
  9. Thin white duke

    Thin white duke Friend of Leo's

    Oct 1, 2017
    I probably put You're under arrest with Tutu...
    I'm talking about the 80's only.
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