What do you think of in 2022 when you see the name Miles Davis? The innovator? The iconoclast? The accomplished trumpeter?
The folks at Sony have been relatively quiet in recent years when it comes to maintaining the late Davis’ legacy, but they’ve assembled a new collection of outtakes, vault discoveries and a live concert that make up “That’s What Happened 1982-1985: The Bootleg Series Vol. 7,” out on Sept. 16.
Davis’ 1980s’ comeback after several years of self-imposed isolation was somewhat controversial, as odd as that might seem decades later. After a long period of being known for his creative audacity in the realm of jazz, Davis appeared to be committed to following current trends instead of creating them. That might be why we discuss “Kind Of Blue,” “Bitches Brew” and the influential albums surrounding those benchmarks instead of, say, “You’re Under Arrest” from 1985, which features Davis sporting a gun on the cover and containing music that, while pleasant enough, wasn’t up to the trumpeter’s standards from the 1950s to the ’70s.
Over the course of three and a half hours, “That’s What Happened,” wants us to reevaluate Davis from that period, or maybe dig in for the first time. There’s plenty of material that’s nice to hear once or twice, like the multiple takes of “Celestial Blues” and “Hopscotch,” but there’s also a handful of keepers that a Davis devotee will relish.
Davis sounds particularly sharp on the live 1983 concert performance that makes up the third disc, and one can’t help but wonder why the excellent, 13-minute track “Santana” has been collecting dust for almost four decades. There are other compelling discoveries, like the extended “Katia” from 1985, featuring guitarist John McLaughlin. Speaking of guitarists, besides Davis’ trumpet, the standout performers here are future stars John Scofield and Mike Stern, who really help propel their leader to heights of inspiration that recall his former glories.
While it’s never incendiary — like music from previous volumes in the Davis “Bootleg” series — “That’s What Happened” is always enjoyable. And when it comes to unearthing more of Miles’ legacy, that’s more than good enough.
Jazz of note in the Denver area this month: Before Dazzle moves from the Baur’s Building downtown to the DCPA later this year, its team has lined up plenty of fine live performances, including vocalist Nicole Henry on Sept. 9; mesmerizing pianist Monty Alexander on Sept. 27-28; a homecoming run of shows for saxophonist Javon Jackson (featuring piano legend George Cables) Sept. 30 and Oct. 1; and exploratory Colorado trumpeter Hugh Ragin’s Creative Ensemble on Oct. 3. I’ve grown to love the Baur’s location, but I’m excited to see what will take shape in Dazzle’s new digs. … The uplifting Rebirth Brass Band appears at Denver’s Levitt Pavilion with a free show on Sept. 8. … The quartet Garage A Trois plays Cervantes’ Other Side Sept. 8-9 and Boulder’s Fox Theatre Sept. 10. Saxophonist Jackiem Joyner is slated for the Soiled Dove Underground on Sept. 16. … Drummer and jazz fusion hero Billy Cobham and his Crosswinds Project take to the Gothic Theatre stage on Sept. 24. … Seun Kuti (yes, son of Fela) brings his Egypt 80 Band to the Fox Theatre Sept. 27. … The exemplary guitarist Julian Lage appears at the Boulder Theater on Oct. 1. … and the John Gunther Quartet performs “Monk, Mingus and More” Fridays through September at Nocturne.
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