In 1985, Miles Davis' thirty year association with Columbia Records came to an end and the jazz legend, who managed to reinvent jazz a dozen times over managed to reinvent the price value of jazz recording contracts when he signed with Warner Brothers. What Davis unfortunately didn't seem to do was read past the bottom line and his royalties for songwriting would lie with Warner Brothers, not with him. As a result, Davis refused to compose anything on his own and instead brought his former bass player Marcus Miller to compose for him. Miller wrote compositions for Davis and set up a framework in which the trumpeter could solo. The first album resulting from this collaboration, "Tutu", proves to be one of the great records of Davis' career, and like "Sketches of Spain" before it, provides a powerful launching pad for Davis and coaxes out of him one of his best performances.
Musically, the album is guaranteed to alienate Davis fans everywhere -- while he'd abandoned acoustic instruments as the only way to go in the '60s, this album was an embracing of synthesizers, drum machines, and electric instruments, even more so than his previous records were. Miller performed all the electric and acoustic instruments (including bass guitar, electric guitar, at least some live drums, soprano sax, bass clarinet and synthesizers) with additional contributions in synth programming from Ron Miles and Adam Holzman and one track ("Backyard Ritual") where George Duke assumes the framing role. Most important is that Davis, who sometimes seemed a bit unengaged with his own music on his later recordings, is full of fire and passion-- blows powerfully in a number of different moods, be it passion and fir ("Tutu"), a deep romanticism and yearning ("Portia"), funky explosiveness ("Splatch") or bouncey ecstacy ("Perfect Way").
For the purists who claim it's not jazz if it has electric instruments, programmed beats, or synthesizers -- skip this, you'll find nothing to like and nothing I say will convince you otherwise, even though this album is one of the best of its form. For those who question bringing in Miller to frame Davis and would make the statement this is a Marcus Miller record thinly veiled as a Miles Davis album-- remember that Gil Evans set up the same kind of framings for Davis, and no one views "Miles Ahead" or "Sketches of Spain" (or for that matter "The Birth of the Cool" where Davis only co-wrote one piece) as anything other than a Miles Davis album. The fact is, this album is one of the best of its generation. "Tutu" is a relic of a time when artists were not afraid to try something new. Highly recommended. Michael Stack
5. Backyard Ritual
6. Perfect Way
7. Don´t Lose Your Mind
8. Full Nelson
Miles Davis: trumpet
Marcus Miller: various instruments, bass, programming
George Duke: various instruments
Michael Urbaniak: electric violin
Adam Holzman: synthesizer, programming
Bernard Wright: synthesizer
Omar Hakim: drums, percussion
Steve Reid, Paulinho Da Costa: percussion
Jason Miles: programming