on 3 June 2011
This is at least the 3rd issue of 'Tutu', and sounds MUCH better than the original CD release. And to further tempt you into parting with your money yet again, the bonus is a very hot n'funky 76-minute live concert from Nice 1986, featuring Robben Ford's driving guitar. Which makes this a pretty darn good 2CD set.
The package includes comprehensive notes on the making of the album, by Ashley Kahn; the creation of 'Tutu' has been detailed in at least 2 books on Miles' electric period, so there is no need to go into that here. Suffice to say that it was Miles' 1st recording for Warner Bros, and completely eclipsed his last 2 or 3 albums for CBS. It was brilliant, dark, completely unexpected and futuristic at the time, and this is a superb-sounding re-issue; only the forthcoming SACD release could possibly sound any closer to the master recording.
Davis didn't really know how to write the pop-funk material he needed to play in order to appeal to the young, black audience he was desperate to reach. But he'd used Marcus Miller on bass in the '81-82 'comeback' band, who could and who by this time was also a genius producer - for David Sanborn, among others. And Miller knew - what to do, how to do it, realised this was a crucial point in both his and Miles' careers and that this recording had to deliver far beyond expectations. And he fulfilled that brief. It still sounds unique and completely different.
Nobody had thought that Davis would embrace the new technology so completely, and this album put him back in the forefront of innovation in that field in 1986. Some of the sounds - the opening orchestral stab, for instance - date the record, but within Miles' discography it is to the '80s what 'Bitches Brew' was to the '70s and 'Kind of Blue' was to the '50s, i.e. his most important studio recording of the decade. Dark, knife-sharp, martial, menacing and brilliant, the music glitters and flashes throughout, though the version of Scritti Politi's 'Perfect Way' (the track that sounds the most dated) wasn't one of Miles' greatest ideas.
Then (then!) there is the bonus live CD, of the summer 1986 group firing on all cylinders. Warners recorded as many gigs with Ford as possible, and really should have released a live album at the time; why did no recordings by this line-up make it onto the 'Heard around the World' CD? Incomprehensible, for this was a stunning band; the late and very great Bob Berg and Robben Ford are the saxophone and guitar soloists. Berg never played with anything less than 100%, though he doesn't spark off Ford like he did off Scofield. Ford plays about 7 or 8 out of 10 on this one - which is at least 5 better than most players - but his tone is better recorded and his playing fierier on the 2 CDs within the huge 'Miles at Montreux' box set. However he really cooks - fires up straight out of the gate, and there is a long, thoughtful solo on the 17-minute version of 'Splatch' with some extraordinary and unusual forays into the new musical territory in which he found himself. As for Miles, he is as on form here as he ever got in the 1980s, and hot to play from the off.
So this is a very exciting and inspirational funk/fusion/rock set which shows the Davis band of 1986 had attained considerable firepower, and its inclusion in the package makes the whole thing well worth your attention.
`Tutu', released in 1986 was one of Miles' last works and defines his later, `electronic' period. Sometimes criticised for being more the work of the highly talented multi-instrumentalist Marcus Miller than of Miles himself in the same way that `Porgy and Bess' and `Sketches of Spain' might be seen as `Gil Evans Albums', nevertheless Miles' signature style and virtuoso trumpet playing define Tutu's principle character.
The history of this project is that Miles' new contract with Warner Brothers stipulated that all songwriting credits henceforth should belong to WB rather than to Miles himself. To get around this legal irritant Miller was hired to compose the main theme for each piece as a framework over which Miles could solo, and took all legal songwriting credit. You have to agree Miller did a good job: the resulting electronic rhythms and synth-dominant sound gives `Tutu' a distinctively 1980s feel which leads some to claim that Miles had `re-invented' jazz for the fourth or fifth time in his illustrious and multiply-groundbeaking career of continuous innovation. Well, that's stretching things a bit: `Tutu' is OK but hardly `great', in the same way `Do-Bop' is OK but not really a classic.
`Tutu' was certainly a new, fresh sound in 1986 and unlike anything else at the time which could be found under the `jazz' category. The album has a lot of energy and Miles' trumpet playing is as inventive and energetic as ever. However after several numbers it can begin to sound samey, and in the context of Davis' long career and particularly high-points such as `Kind of Blue,' `In a Silent Way' and `Bitches Brew', `Tutu' is justifiably seen by most (but not all) fans as a second-tier effort and not really one of his best works. The album is, however, easily accessible to the new-to-jazz listener and even to people who profess to `not like jazz' but are OK with high-energy electronic instrumental music, and so offers a gateway to the deeper and more interesting musical milestones of the genre.
RIP Miles. You never failed to surprise and delight us, even with your more hit-and-miss projects like `Tutu.'
on 30 October 2015
A thing of its time awash with 80s synths but still kicks impressively. The opening tracks are evocative and atmospheric, and there is punchy funk groove toward the end, culminating in Full Nelson. The live album is excellent too, especially a transcendent Portia. This sits nicely alongside the more extreme Bitches Brew.
on 9 July 2011
This album was my I pod soundtrack to a recent fantastic holiday to KOS, a departure from Miles Davis's expected style, however I loved it, particularly the guitar solos.
on 2 February 2014
This was one of the later albums I acquired from the Miles Davis catalogue. I loved the cover and the idea of a tribute to Desmond Tutu. I expected music to match that stature. What I got was bland 80's Pop. In a documentary I saw recently Marcus Miller talked about how the Jazz musicians who Miles got playing electric instruments looked uncomfortable playing them but that he was comfortable as it was where he came from. Here in lies the problem, that Miles himself should have recognised. He had previously pushed musicians way out of their comfort zone to get great performances out of them. He sack George Coleman (who should have been recognised as one of the great saxophonists of a new Miles Davis band) because he heard him practicing solos in his hotel room. Miles wanted spontaneity and practiced solos did not deliver that.
Marcus Miller's mechanical trudging arrangements do allow Miles some space for playing against but this album, and the one's released around this time, have aged very badly. I have dozens (literally) of Miles davis albums that I would listen to before getting this out again although here the live Deluxe Edition tracks do at least offer a slightly more rewarding listening experience.
I recommend that you buy this album only after you have almost everything from Birth of the Cool to Agharta. The best post-hiatus album is clearly Aura but I do have a soft spot for track High Speed Chase on Doo-Bop