‘You play what your body tells you to play,” – Miles Davis

The latest chapter in Columbia/Legacy‘s acclaimed Miles Davis Bootleg Series shines a fresh light on an underrated period of the musician’s restless career-spanning quest for sublime and transcendent sounds.

The 3CD set includes two discs of previously unreleased studio material – from the Star People, Decoy and You’re Under Arrest sessions – and a third disc showcasing Miles Davis Live in Montreal on July 7, 1983.

The collection comes in a slipcase with individual album mini-jackets and a booklet featuring liner notes by Marcus J. Moore and revelatory new interviews with Miles’ 80’s players including Vince Wilburn, Jr. (drummer and bandmate), John Scofield (electric guitarist), Darryl Jones (bassist), Marcus Miller (bassist) and Mike Stern (guitarist).

Eight of the 10 tracks on CD 1 of Miles Davis – That’s What Happened 1982-1985: The Bootleg Series Vol. 7 are unreleased studio tracks from the sessions that resulted in 1983’s Star People.

The second studio album released after Miles’ six-year hiatus from recordings and performing, Star People was the artist’s last to feature the studio wizardry of Miles’ longtime producer Teo Macero.

Musicians include J.J. Johnson (trombone), Bill Evans (soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone), Mike Stern (guitar), John Scofield (guitar), Marcus Miller (electric bass), Al Foster (drums) and Mino Cinélu (percussion) with Miles doubling on trumpet and keyboards (without overdubs).

CD1’s other two tracks – “Freaky Deaky, Part 1” and “Freaky Deaky, Part 2” – were produced by Miles Davis (trumpet and keyboards) and feature John Scofield (guitar), Darryl Jones (electric bass), Robert Irving III (Linn Drum programming) and Mino Cinélu (percussion). Recorded June 30, 1983 at A&R Studios in New York during the Decoy sessions, this previously unreleased cassette recording comes from the collection of John Scofield.

The second CD of the set contains unreleased studio recordings from the sessions that gave us 1985’s You’re Under Arrest. Produced by Miles Davis and Robert Irving III, You’re Under Arrest reflected Miles’ polarity of passions, from politics to pop music; among its achievements, the album transformed then-contemporary hits like Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” and Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” into abiding jazz standards.

Musicians include Miles (trumpet), Bob Berg (soprano saxophone), John Scofield (guitar), Robert Irving III (keyboards), Darryl Jones (electric bass), Al Foster (drums), Vince Wilburn, Jr. (drums, drum programming, percussion), Steve Thornton (percussion) and John McLaughlin (guitar on “Katia [full session]”). The previously unreleased recordings in this set were mixed by Steve Berkowitz and Dave Darlington in 2022 at Bass Hit Recording, NYC.

Disc 3 features Miles Davis Live at the Theatre St. Denis in Montreal, Canada on July 7, 1983. The set is being released for the first time as a 2LP 12″ vinyl title, Miles Davis – What It Is: Montreal 7/7/83. The recording showcases one of Miles Davis’ final great bands including John Scofield on guitar, Bill “The Other Bill Evans” Evans on saxophones, flute and electric piano, Darryl Jones on bass, Al Foster on drums and percussionist Mino Cinélu.

What It Is: Montreal 7/7/83 features liner notes penned by the incomparable music journalist Greg Tate, who passed away on December 7, 2021. One of Tate’s final pieces, the essay provides insight into Davis’ process and psyche: “Asked in the 1980s why he changed his music so many times, Miles replied “You don’t change music, music changes you”.

He also stridently stated: “You don’t play what the critics tell you to play, you play what your body tells you to play.”

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