MTH-V: Miles Davis’s ‘One Phone Call’

Note: I’ve tried to make a habit thus far of largely avoiding material that’s also available for purchase on DVD. However, sometimes it’s unavoidable, and this time, because of cuts, it’s advantageous.

Miles is without peer, that’s a given. He’s one of my Top 5 (along with TOOL, Dave Matthews Band, John Coltrane, and Smashing Pumpkins), my own personal Hall of Legends that cannot be paralleled. I can assure y’all that this will be the first of likely many Miles entries in this series. Not only does my love of Miles’s music run deep, but it also runs wide. Yes, the early stuff with Bird is great, as is the Prestige era. And yes, I have almost his entire Columbia output. However, one period that often gets written off (and not without some justification) is his 1980-91 “comeback,” of which I’m a staunch defender. Sure, his playing wasn’t what it once was, and the music was different (but not worse or “less than”). However, Miles remained on top of his game in one department: bandleader.

Thought not as audience-friendly and/or extroverted as Duke, Miles knew how to assemble a band and get the best out of each musician. This is as apparent in 1985 as it was with the “First Quintet,” “Second Quintet,” and the various fusion bands of the 70s. Consider, for instance, his 1981 lineup of Bill Evans (sax), Mike Stern, Marcus Miller, Mino Cinelu, and Al Foster. With a powerhouse band like that, Miles is simply the Dude’s Rug.

This week’s video is an excerpt of one of Miles’s 1980s staple openers, “One Phone Call,” from 1985. (It went through many iterations before and after, but that was the name given for the studio release on 1985’s You’re Under Arrest.) It can be found on one of my favorite Miles DVDs, Miles Davis: Live In Montreal. While this particular YouTube video is missing the opening vamp, trumpet solo, and melody, it focuses on the real meat & potatoes: solos by the late Bob Berg and John Scofield. (Also, you don’t have to hear Vince Wilburn, Jr. – the band’s weak link & Miles’s nephew – drop the tempo, or see the rest of the band push him along.) I actually prefer the (accidental) slower tempo to earlier incarnations with Al Foster, but it would’ve been nice had Foster stuck around another year for this performance. Regardless, this clip is funky – it should get you out of your seat!

There’s not much more to say other than BOB BERG and JOHN SCOFIELD! They destroy, as only they can do. And Darryl Jones’s thumb is hard to ignore… (too bad he can’t do this kind of stuff at his current gig!)

Lineup:
Miles Davis – Trumpet
Bob Berg – Saxophone
Robert Irving III – Synthesizer
Darryl Jones – Bass
John Scofield – Guitar
Steve Thornton – Percussion (I love the way he creeps up behind Scofield during the guitar solo… :))
Vince Wilburn, Jr. – Drums

If you have the time, Part 1 is here.

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