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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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The Best of (The Warner Bros. Sessions, 1985-1991)

Rhino 8122-74863-2



1. Tutu
2. Splatch
3. Catembe
4. Mr Pastorius
5. Amandla
6. Mystery
7. Chocolate Chip
8. The Doo-Bop Song
9. Trumpet Cleaning
10. Siesta/Kitt's Kiss/Lost In Madrid, Part 2
11. The Pan Piper
12. Summertime
13. In a Silent Way
14. Time After Time
15. Hannibal

Miles Davis - Trumpet
Marcus Miller – Bass, keyboards, drums, guitar, bass clarinet, soprano sax (tracks 1-5, 10)
Paulinho da Costa – Percussion (tracks 1, 2)
Adam Holzman – Synthesiser (track 2)
Steve Reid – Percussion (track 2)
Kenny Garrett – Alto sax (tracks 3, 511, 12, 13)
Al Foster – Drums (track 4)
Jason Miles – Synthesiser programming (tracks 4, 10)
Joe Sample – Piano (track 5)
Omar Hakim – Drums (track 5)
Don Alias, Bashiri Johnson – Percussion (track 5)
Easy Mo Bee – Keyboards, vocals (tracks 6-8)
A, B. Money, J. R. – Vocals (track 8)
Deron Johnson – Keyboards (track 8)
The Michel Legrand Orchestra (track 9)
John Scofield – Acoustic guitar (track10)
Omar Hakim – Drums (track 10)
Wallace Roney – Trumpet (tracks 11, 12)
The Gil Evans Orchestra and the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band conducted by Quincy Jones (tracks 11,12)
Foley - Bass (tracks 13-15)
Adam Holzman – Keyboards (tracks 13, 14)
Joey DeFrancesco – Keyboards (track 13)
Benny Rietveld – Bass (tracks 13, 14)
Marilyn Mazur – Percussion (track 13)
Ricky Wellman – Drums (tracks 13-15)
Kei Akagi – Keyboards (track 14)
Munyungo Jackson – Percussion (track 14)
Deron Johnson – Keyboards (track 15)
Richard Patterson – Bass (track 15)

In the last years of his life, trumpeter Miles Davis signed with Warner Brothers, so this CD is a selection from his final recordings. By this stage, Miles had taken the principle of "less is more" to the extreme: playing short phrases over arrangements provided by the likes of bassist Marcus Miller and Easy Mo Bee. That economical style worked well on the recordings that Miles made earlier with Gil Evans, because Gil provided imaginative backings that suited Davis perfectly. But on these later albums the backings are generally too mechanized: sticking to disco or hip-hop grooves which are too repetitive to maintain one’s interest. And Miles’s playing is very erratic, marred by split notes and poor intonation. The flaws in Miles’s technique, which were noticeable back in his bebop days, are very evident here and often make his solo contributions sound like mere doodling.

The most coherent tracks are The Pan Piper and Summertime, from the session at Montreux for which Quincy Jones persuaded Miles to revisit some of his former glories. Tutu is from the 1986 album which revived Miles’s career, and it’s certainly a catchy track - although it hardly stretches the trumpeter, whose playing is decorative rather than innovative. The last three tracks come from the posthumous CD Live Around the World and convey the excitement of the concert atmosphere, although Miles’ playing is still fragmentary and backed by funky accompaniments which tend to sound samey.

Trumpeter Wallace Roney, who plays on the two Quincy Jones tracks, contributed the sleeve-notes and they are remarkably ambiguous. He calls Miles "the Master" but he says that the tracks with Easy Mo Bee "sound like he is playing along with the radio" and he criticises the Marcus Miller arrangements for not using "real instruments". He also says that he would really have liked to write the liner notes for an album from Miles’s classic quintet of the mid-sixties, suggesting that he’s not so keen on these latter-day performances. Nor am I.

Tony Augarde


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