JJ 10/83: Miles Davis – Star People

Forty years ago Mark Gilbert thought Davis's third comeback album compositionally scrappy but sporadically effective, chiefly in the solos. First published in Jazz Journal October 1983


Essentially the style of Miles latest band remains the same as on previous albums. The high-energy funk and rock rhythms reappear here, although the harmony sounds more atonal than was the case on We Want Miles, last year’s live double album. Come And Get It and Speak illustrate this point.

The kicking rhythm section is a vital part of the unit, Al Foster’s drums and Mino Cinelu’s percussion filling out Miller or Barney’s simple bass riffs.

Most of the album sounds impro­vised rather than arranged or com­posed, and the rather messy produc­tion strengthens this impression. Fade outs and non sequitur codas like that on Come And Get It are further evidence.

Whatever the origins of the music, it works successfully in many places. Miles, Stern and Scofield all produce effective solos, although saxist Evans gets little exposure and is mainly heard in ensembles.

Of the other tracks, It Gets Better is a strange ballad-type workout, U ’n’ I is a harmless but enjoyable Latin riff, repeated and embellished, and Star On Cicely is another power-packed funk groove. The longest track is Star People which I found to be a below par attempt at the staple 12-bar blues. There is more to blues playing than this lacklustre slouch.

The most fun is to be obtained from those funk/rock based titles. If you’ve heard James Blood Ulmer or Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time Band, think of these tracks as better paced and more dynamically varied versions of harmolodic funk. Swing fans can pass this one by, although Scofield as ever manages to swing frequently in his solos, his creation on Speak being a particular gem.

Come And Get It; It Gets Better; Speak (29.33) – Star People; U ’n’ I; Star On Cicely (29.02)
Miles Davis (t/kyb); Mino Cinelu (pc); Bill Evans (ss/ts); Al Foster (d); Tom Barney, Marcus Miller (b); John Scofield, Mike Stern (g).
(CBS 25395)