JJ 06/83: Miles Davis at Hammersmith Odeon

Forty years ago, Mark Gilbert saw the Stern, Scofield, Evans lineup play a varied set in which the leader seemed to tune in to E.T. First published in Jazz Journal June 1983

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Miles Davis in London, early 1980s. Photo by Derick A. Thomas

Legendary trumpeter Miles was greeted on this, the final night of his European tour, by a near-capacity crowd that cheered wildly before even a note was played.

Since he was last here, Miles has devised an almost completely new set and the nursery rhyme Jean Pierre was the only piece from last year’s repertoire. This 90-minute session had greater variety and gave a stronger impression of light and shade. Tunes tended to run into each other, so we had funk, blues, gospel and ballad move­ments in an effectively continuous per­formance. Miles played a number of typical solos, complete with his beloved ‘wrong notes’ and seemed in good charge of his playing and his band.

The band remains strong; percussionist Mino Cinelu’s punctuations were particularly pleasing, and Tom Barney was an adequate replacement for Marcus Miller. Al Foster remained at the core, sticking to a strict timekeeping role. Saxo­phonist Bill Evans seemed underamplified; his tenor contributions did not impress like last year’s, but he played some fine soprano.

The addition of John Scofield has not been accompanied by the subtraction of Mike Stern, so now the band has two excellent guitarists. There is no question of duplication here – each has a distinct style, and they complement each other well.

Altogether, this was first-class entertain­ment, with the fun-loving Miles providing the vaudeville link between band and audience. He has kept up with the times so skilfully that on one of the few occasions that he looked up from the floor, one was reminded of the latest tragic-comic heart throb to capture the popular imagination – E.T.