JJ 01/82: Miles Davis – The Man With The Horn

Forty years ago, Chris Sheridan failed to see the innovation in the renascent trumpeter's embrace of the incipient 1980s fusion revolution. First published in Jazz Journal January 1982


The first solid news of Miles’ return to the scene was brought by singer Betty Carter earlier this year. But she bemoaned the fact that Davis had elected to stay commercial and was no longer interested in jazz. Her worst fears are realized by this LP, at whose original session Davis wasn’t even present – he turned up later to overdub his part. Rumour also has it that he plays some of the organ heard here, but, whoever is sitting behind the Yamaha, it is pretty un­distinguished.

Some people have already noted ‘optimistic’ signs of a Davis return to former eminence here. True, he plays entirely open trumpet and eschews the electronic wah-wah and other effects that adulterated his horn solos on previous, post-‘Bitches Brew’ albums. He has little profound to say, however. Indeed, much of his work is an amalgam of ill-related fragments, so that, more than ever, he appears to be parody­ing himself.

Up to 1980, Davis has successfully indicated the new trend for each successive decade of his career – not by inventing it, but by recognis­ing the significant new idea and broadening its appeal. This may be the first time a new decade has dawned with Davis on a passé style.

(a) Fat Time; (b) Back Seat Betty; (c) Shout (27.00) – (b) Aida; (d) The Man With The Horn; (b) Ursula (25.32)
(a) Davis (t); Bill Evans (ss); Mike Stern (g); Mar­cus Miller (elb); Al Foster (d); Sammy Figueroa (pc). NYC, 1980.
(b) Barry Finnerty (g) replaces Stern. Same dates.
(c) Davis (t); Randy Hall (syn); Robert Irving III (org); Finnerty (g); Felton Crews (elb); Vincent Wilburn (d); Figueroa (pc). Same date.
(d) Davis (t); Hall (syn/cel/g/vo); Irving (p/org); Evans (ss); Crews (elb); Wilburn (d). Same date.
(CBS 84708)