Domino Records 891235
Miles Davis, trumpet and keyboards on all tracks, plus:
CD 1 [1-7] Bill Evans (ts, ss, fl); John Scofield (g), Robert Irving III (keyb); Darryl Jones (b); Al Foster (d); Mino Cinelu (per).
Congress Hall, Warsaw, Poland, 23 October 1983.
CD 2 [1-6] As above
[7-9] Miles Davis (tp); Mike Stern (g); Bill Evans (ts); Marcus Miller (b), Al Foster (d); Mino Cinelu (per).
Shinjuku Nishi-Guchi Horoba, Tokyo, Japan, 4 October 1981
Miles Davis didn’t mention many concerts in his autobiography, but he did make a point of recalling how much he enjoyed this one. Recorded when the Cold War was fracturing relations between the communist and capitalist worlds, and the Iron Curtain was dividing Europe, it was quite a coup for Polish jazz fans to get the opportunity to see Miles play in person.
However, before we look at the music, some words about the CD packaging. The photo of Miles on the cover was taken in the late 1980s, and not during the concert. Inside, there are photos of most of the band members, although one includes a picture of Miles with lead bassist Foley, who didn’t join the band until 1987. More seriously, the concert date is given as 13 October 1983, when it actually took place ten days later. There are three bonus tracks from Miles’s 1981, which were recorded in Tokyo in October 1981, and not New York in July 1981, as stated on the CD.
This was an interesting time for Miles and music. His band was a combination of those who formed part of his 1981 come-back band (Evans, Foster and Cinelu), an established member ( Scofield, who had been with Miles for almost a year) and two new members, Jones and Irving (who had joined the band less than six months previously). Irving was the first specialist keyboardist Miles had had in his band for a decade, but Miles still plays plenty of keyboard – mainly stabs and pads on his Oberheim OB-Xa synthesiser – whenever someone else solos.
The music is mainly taken from Miles’s last album, Star People, and Decoy, which was recorded the previous month, and wouldn’t be released until the following year. As a result, the audience got to hear several new tracks. The gig kicks off with a rousing version of “Speak,” with Jones’s bass line propelling the music. Indeed, the impact of Jones on Miles’s music is very apparent, with jazz-funk tracks dominating the repertoire, and the young bassist getting several solo spots. The concert includes three blues tracks, “Star People,” “It Get Better,” and the near 17-minute “That’s
Right.” The last track – from Decoy – was rarely played live, so this CD is a good way to hear it.
A word should be said of Scofield’s playing, which is nothing short of superb, and Miles lets Scofield solo on a number of tracks, including “What It Is,” and “It Gets Better.” Bill Evans plays solos on “What It Is” (soprano) and “It Gets Better” (tenor) but is quiet for much of the concert. Miles plays lots of open horn and is clearly in much better lip than when he started out again in 1981. His horn sings sweetly on the blues tracks, and he plays some dazzling fast runs and trills on tunes such as “Hopscotch” and “What It Is.” One of the highlights of the concert is a slowed-down funk version of “Star On Cicely,” where Evans blasts way on soprano sax, Scofield solos and Foster and Jones lay down a heavy groove.
The concert ends with “Jean-Pierre,” and then there are three encores (after the crowd screams “We want Miles!”). The first is an unknown tune, which showcases Jones’s bass playing, and then there are two versions (with different arrangements) of “Speak.”
The Japan bonus tracks (“Ursula,” “Aida” and “My Man’s Gone Now”) have appeared on the import album Miles! Miles! Miles!, and if you own the Complete Columbia Album Collection boxed set, you’ll find them on the special version of We Want Miles.
Apart from a couple of tracks on the Decoy album (“What It Is” and “That’s What Happened,” both from an earlier concert and minus Irving), this is the only official live release from this period, and well worth getting if you are a fan of Miles’s 1980’s music. There’s also a video of the concert available, although without the Japan tracks.