The jazz legend's collaborators recall the creation of his greatest works

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TUTU
Warner Bros, 1986
Produced by Marcus Miller, Tommy LiPuma
Miles changes labels for this overdub-fest with Marcus Miller. Named in homage to Desmond Tutu.

MARCUS MILLER (BASS/COMPOSER/PRODUCER): I got a call from Tommy LiPuma at Warners and he said “We got Miles Davis – do you have any music?” Then he sent me a George Duke tune, that had drum machines, sampled trumpets and sax on it. I was like, “Woah! So Miles wants to step into this direction.” So I put together demos, over-dubbing myself. I brought them to California for Tommy to hear, and he said, “Let’s start.” I said, “But what about the band?” And he said, “We’ll do it how you did your demo.” Miles liked it: all he said was ,“Call me when you need the trumpet.” It was weird, scary and exciting. One day Miles called and said he wanted to do “Spitti Monitti”. I said “Oh, you’re talking about Scritti Politti… that’s a pretty extreme choice.” He said, “Just do it, motherfucker,” and hung up, and that was “Perfect Way”. In the ’50s he’d do covers and the band would say “Why do you want to do this corny shit, Miles?” But he uncovered the beauty in some of these songs. Tutu was modern, even if it carried Miles’ tradition and history with it. He found a sound that could become a soundtrack to the 1980s.

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DOO-BOP
Warner Bros, 1992
Produced by Easy Mo Bee
Miles connects with hip-hop, hiring producer/MC Easy Mo Bee. The result? Occasionally jazz-referencing pop-rap, with trumpet breaks.

EASY MO BEE (MC/producer): Miles wanted to get into hip-hop, so he contacted Russell Simmons. My manager sent a reel of songs I’d done. One of these was “True Fresh MC” by The Genius/GZA of Wu-Tang, and it caught Miles’ ear. He was living on Central Park West between 88th and 89th. He had a meeting where they invited all the auditioning producers. While he’s listening to their reels, he sat on the couch real quiet. Then they all left. I said, “So what’s up, Miles?” and he said: “I didn’t like that shit.” He played my tape again and said, “That’s bad – you’ll do that for me?” I said “Yeah, Miles, yeah!” Every time we went to the studio it was Miles, me and keyboard player Deron Johnson. I’d lay the basic music and rhythm track, Deron would lace it with keyboard. Miles’ manager Gordon Meltzer said, “Miles is kind of sick, but we need to finish the LP. We want to give you two songs to rework.” So “Fantasy” and “High Speed Chase” are remixes of two unreleased songs. Miles went through all genres in his time. He never stayed in one place, and it seemed like it was only right that he’d try hip-hop.

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