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Albums Of The Week: Miles Davis | That’s What Happened 1982-1985: The Bootleg Series Vol. 7

Take a second look at the restless trumpeter's underappreciated ’80s comeback with this strong three-disc collection of previously unreleased studio and live recordings.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The latest chapter in the 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 three-CD 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’ ’80s players including Vince Wilburn, Jr. (drummer), John Scofield (electric guitarist), Darryl Jones (bassist), Marcus Miller (bassist) and Mike Stern (guitarist).

Eight of the 10 tracks on CD 1 are unreleased studio cuts 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), Stern, Scofield, 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 Part 2 — were produced by Davis and feature Scofield, Jones, Robert Irving III (Linn Drum programming) and Cinélu. 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 Scofield.

The second CD contains unreleased studio recordings from the sessions that gave us 1985’s You’re Under Arrest. Produced by Davis and Irving, 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), Scofield, Irving, Jones, Foster, Wilburn, Steve Thornton (percussion) and John McLaughlin (guitar on Katia). The previously unreleased recordings in this set were mixed by Steve Berkowitz and Dave Darlington in 2022 at Bass Hit Recording, N.Y.C.

Disc 3 features Davis live at the Theatre St. Denis in Montreal in 1983. The recording showcases one of Davis’ final great bands including Scofield, Bill “The Other Bill Evans” Evans on saxophones, flute and electric piano, Jones, Foster and Cinélu. Miles was back in amazing form (“incandescent and iridescent as ever”) when he mounted the stage during the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. What It Is: Montreal 7/7/83 features liner notes penned by journalist Greg Tate, who provides insight into Davis’s 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.’”