the music of Miles Davis 1980 - 1991
a book by George Cole
published by Equinox Publishing in the UK
and University of Michigan Press in the USA
Read reviews and praise for The Last Miles
Order your copy online
from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk
Interview: Steve Lukather
Guitarist Steve "Luke" Lukather is best known as the guitarist in the rock band Toto, but he's also been a much in-demand session musician, playing with artists such as Michael Jackson (Steve plays the driving riff on "Beat It"), Boz Scaggs, Don Henley and Lionel Ritchie.
Steve also has a Miles connection, as around late 1985, Miles recorded a tune he had written with fellow Toto member David Paich, called "Don't Stop Me Now." The song is an instrumental ballad with a gorgeous melody and can be found on the Toto album Fahrenheit. Miles also played it live and you'll find it on the CD Munich Concert and DVD Live in Munich, plus The Complete Miles Davis in Montreux boxed set.
TheLastMiles.com talked to Steve about the origins of the tune, how Miles got to record it and the reaction to the song. Steve also talks about how Miles asked him to join his band - and why he reluctantly had to refuse the offer.
TheLastMiles.com: What did Miles and the music of Miles Davis mean to you?
SL: I heard a lot of interesting things about Miles; that he really loved rock and roll guitar players and that he dug pop music. We all of think of Miles with such reverence, Four and More and all of that. Through the years I've worked with Herbie [Hancock], Wayne [Shorter], Tony Williams and Miles - I never thought I'd get to play with these guys. I listen to that music all the time - it's what I put on in the car on the long journey home. It makes you feel good and it educates you every time you hear that stuff.
TLM: Can you explain the origins of "Don't Stop Me Now?"
SL: Originally it was just something David started out with the original melody. He just had a little piece and I jumped in said: "That's fucking gorgeous!" We were thinking of doing like a Jeff Beck Blow by Blow thing, where I would be the featured melody and soloist on it, because I came up with the bridge and the turnaround at the end. And then the whole Miles thing happened and we changed our whole attitude about it. We thought, "He'll probably say no, but what the fuck - nothing ventured, nothing gained." A vortex opened up and he allowed us to share the honour with one of the greatest legends of all time. Of all the rock and roll bands to do something with him. I don't know why, I think he just liked our vibe. He was so nice to us; he was just the opposite of what we had heard.
[The Toto connection came about because Miles was recording a couple of tracks with Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro, who also co-wrote "Human Nature", a track Miles played live up until his last concerts. Miles was due to meet Steve Porcaro and producer Tommy LiPuma at David Paich's home to do some initial work on the tunes - there's more on this and the music they recorded in my book. Also waiting at the house was Steve Lukather, Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro (now sadly deceased), plus other members of Toto and the Porcaro family.]
TLM: Can you describe that first meeting with Miles?
SL: Miles was coming over to the house and we were all sitting there having a drink, because we just wanted to meet the guy. David had two grand pianos all set up in his living room. There's a real funny story about when Miles came in. David used to have a stuffed life-sized German Shepard [dog] by the front door in attack mode! Miles walks in and the first thing he does when he sees the dog is jump back! And Dave goes "It's okay Miles, the dog's fake!" And Miles takes one look at us all in the room and then at the dog and says: "I've got some shit to make that dog come alive!" We just howled laughing! Then he came in and we introduced ourselves. He was very gracious because we'd heard stories that he could be pretty tough if he didn't dig the vibe.
We tried to be as mellow and respectful as possible. He was just talking shit asking things like: "What are you guys doing?" We were walking on eggshells because we didn't want to set the cat off. So we moved very slowly. He spent a couple of days hanging out with us and he got a chance to see that we had a sense of humour, we had respect, we had interests in lots of music and that we weren't just a bunch of rock 'n' roll punks. Then we seized a window of opportunity.
TLM: How did you ask Miles to play on the track?
SL: We explained we were making a record [Fahrenheit] and then said: "In fact, we've got a tune that we'd love you to play on." And he looks at us like "yeah, alright, I hadn't heard that one before!" Dave said: 'It's something like a Sketches of Spain vibe we're looking at, but we don't want to get in your face about it. Can we play the song for you one time?
I sit down at one piano and Dave sits down at another and we start playing "Don't Stop Me Now." I was playing the melody and at the end of it he looks over at us and says "What is this? Fucking Ferranti and Tycher? [a piano duo from the 1960s]" - we laughed our asses off! Then he said "Yeah I liked that, it's a nice tune." We didn't think much of it and then he went to work with Steve and cut some tracks.
TLM: Describe the recording process.
SL: Miles wanted to cut the horn at Jeff's studio [called The Villa] and we were all over there cutting the Fahrenheit record. So just in case, we cut the track and left the melody off - we just left open spaces. When Miles got there, we said "Hey man would you mind just playing the tune? Just blow on it and see what happens? If you don't feel comfortable that's cool." We had the music, so we ran it down together with him and he was kind of playing around the melody - he wasn't really playing the melody. So we figured, we're not going to tell Miles Davis what to play, so we said, "Miles, we have a take of this, would you mind just giving it a listen and play whatever you want?" He says "Okay, I'll play like that. You like that old shit right?" So he gets out the Harmon mute and he played it down - one take. We're all stood there completely freaked out - it was unbelievable. At the end, the song just kind of fades out, but he just kept playing the blues. I was sitting there with chicken skin on my arms - it was unbelievable moment. And that's how we ended the record - with just Miles blowing. Later on, [saxophonist] David Sanborn came down to play on a different tune on the record and he'd heard that we had cut a tune with Miles. He said: "I gotta hear it," and so we played it and he flipped and said "Please just let me be on the track!" So he doubled the melody and played a couple of flurries. So we got Sanborn, Miles and us on one track - that was pretty cool.
TLM: Any other memories of the session?
SL: Miles was an artist as well, and Jeff Porcaro was too. Jeff had this really bizarre picture - in fact I had it done as a tattoo on my arm after Jeff passed away - it's just this weird character. Miles saw it and said "I love this, this is fantastic." Jeff says: "Well, if we can use the jam on the record, please take it." Miles says: "Stop the session - I'm going to draw you something." So he sat down with Jeff's art pad and coloured pencils and pens and made Jeff a drawing in the classic Miles style. And he gave it to him and said "you can have the track too". The aura of this cat - he was the hippest looking cat you've ever seen. He was telling us stories about [drummer] Philly Joe [Jones] jumping out the window of a second storey building and breaking his leg because he didn't have the money to check out. It was really deep.
TLM: What happened after the recording session?
SL: Word got around that Miles had done this with us, a bunch of white boys from The Valley and everybody was calling his office and asking Miles to play on their record!
TLM: And Miles asked you to join the band?
SL: I never thought he would actually listen to the record, but then I get a call from Tommy Lipuma saying "Miles has just called me and he wants me to call you, because he wants you to play in his band." I go "What!?" I'm like: "Fuck me, you're kidding!" Miles had obviously heard the record and I guess he liked my crazy rock and roll shit! So he calls me and says: "Hey man, you wanna play in my band?" I'm sitting on the phone freaking as I had to say no as we were leaving like in three days for a world tour. As much as a great honour and lesson it would have been for me in life and in music, I couldn't let the guys down, so I had to say no. I said: "Look Miles, no one's gonna believe that this ever happened, but I'm turning you down. [The band are] my brothers who I've been with since high school, I can't just leave them in the lurch for a full tour. He said "I understand, that's cool." And that was the last time I ever spoke to him. But then Lipuma calls me back and says "Who should we get - have you got any suggestions?" I suggested he should call either Mike Landau or Robben Ford. Robben got the call and the gig [Ford played with Miles from April to July 1986].
TLM: What was the reaction like to "Don't Stop Me Now"?
SL: It was never released as a single because it was such a strange song. It was like we were a rock band but jazz radio didn't want to touch us, even though we had Miles. It was too jazz for any rock station. So it was like this cult kind of tune. People know it and they love it and we sometimes play it live and the crowd sings the melody, even though there are no words. We felt it would be disrespectful to draw out the fact that Miles Davis was on playing on our record and we promised not to do that, and so we just put a small credit on the record.
TLM: You also made it the last track on the album.
SL: After you hear Miles what's going to come after that?
TLM: Miles played your song live.
SL: That was beyond - when I heard that he dug it so much that he played it live. I just got a CD [Munich Concert] with the song on it and my name is on a Miles Davis record - that's a huge moment for me and for David too.
TLM: What are your views on the music Miles played in the 1980s?
SL: This is a purely subjective opinion. I never really knew the guy to call him a friend, but as a fan, my opinion is that he'd already done it all. He didn't want to go back - he'd already re-defined music. He was there in the early days of bebop, then he went on to electric stuff, started a whole new music scene there and made so many musicians famous. He was just trying to what he liked. He did what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it and just didn't give a fuck. Nor should he - he was Miles Davis.
TLM: Finally, what are your thoughts on the guitarists Miles had in the 1980s, people like Mike Stern, John Scofield, Robben Ford and Foley?
SL: I've played with most of the guys. I don't know Foley, but I'd like to meet him some time. He was an oddball - his whole take was four strings and that's an original concept. He's the guy who played on my tune [on the Munich CD/DVD]. I revere all these guys. I often wonder what it would have been like to have gone on the road and play with Miles. I probably would have grown as a musician and he would have made me a better player. But I've recorded with him and he recorded one of my songs, and as a composer, that's the greatest honour there is. I will always cherish that memory.
Many thanks to Steve and Arend Slagman. Check out Steve's website at www.stevelukather.net
praise for The Last Miles
‘The best Miles Davis book ever.’ Randy Hall, singer/guitarist/producer, who worked with Miles in the 1980s
‘An important book.’ Brian Priestley, co-author of ‘The Rough Guide to Jazz’, jazz pianist, critic and reviewer
‘Very moving, emotional material.’ Gordon Meltzer, Miles’s last road manager and executive producer of the ‘Doo-Bop’ album
‘George Cole’s writing, his choice of references, his descriptions of many incidents – it is all so clear and respectful, and shows a deep understanding.’ Palle Mikkelborg, composer, arranger and producer of the ‘Aura’ album
"Wow! What a great book. Finally, something that really gets it right. Thank you for capturing what was going on, the mood, everything." Adam Holzman, Milesís keyboardist and musical director 1985-1989
"Wonderful job, congratulations! An immense amount of work must have gone into it, I can't even imagine. But it was very cool to see that era of Miles treated with the same respect as every other... someone gets it!" Benny Rietveld, Miles's bassist 1988-1990
"The book is wonderful. Congratulations for your very important contribution to the historical documentation of many [musicians] who would otherwise have been overlooked!!!!" Robert Irving III Miles’s musical director 1983-1988
"I have to say that you did a marvellous job! It brought back strong memories of that time period and answered a number of questions I had, especially the chapter on the Rubberband sessions. A brilliant job!" Patrick Murray, who worked on the road with Miles from 1986-1990 and was Miles’s concert sound mixer from 1988-1990
"It is truly an excellent body of work that literally takes a reader from hearing rumours to realising truths about the Chicago group and our collective take on the Miles Davis comeback." Glenn Burris, co-writer of "Shout"
"The most immediate impact that this book had on me was to make me listen again to Miles’ later recordings with a completely regenerated ear and this really is the reason why this book works so well and is an essential read for any true Miles Davis appreciator… you will be hard pressed to find a more inspirational read, written by a man who quite simply loves Miles Davis’ music." Mike Chadwick, Ejazz.fm
"There are large chunks of fresh material here…Fill[s] in quite a few gaps and dismisses blanket condemnations of [Miles’s] pop phase." Stephen Graham, Jazzwise
"Cole does for Miles’ late work what Ian Macdonald’s ‘Revolution In The Head’ does for The Beatles, examining each album in meticulous detail." John Lewis, Time Out
"Cole’s analysis has a meticulous, forensic character… [and] is able to bring a wealth of new information to light….This book should get people talking. It should be the first rather than the last word on an intriguing chapter of the life an extraordinarily complex artist. And Davis’s vanity would surely have loved that." Kevin Le Gendre, Independent on Sunday
"The book is beautiful. I think you did a great job on covering Miles’s life and legacy." Sid Reynolds, hip-hop producer
"GREATFUCKINJOBWITDABOOK" Foley, Miles’s lead bassist 1987-1991
"Cole’s certainly produced a fascinating book." Chris Ingham, Mojo
"As with any good musical biography, Cole had made me think again about those albums such as Siesta, You’re Under Arrest, The Man with the Horn, that are now stashed in my attic." John Bungey, The Times
"I thought it was wonderful. It’s a very detailed look at a certain part of the career and life of Miles Davis. A lot of people didn’t pay attention to this and I’m glad that George Cole took the time to focus on these final years of Miles’s life." Easy Mo Bee, co-producer of Doo-Bop
"Many people have come to me in the past about how the "last miles" bands had been overlooked and ignored by journalists. This book is a comprehensive answer to these omissions. From my discussions with musicians from the latter years with Miles it seems pretty clear they feel some vindication as a result of this book. I thank you sincerely for telling our story. Most everything I have read is as close to my memory of how things happened as any book could hope to be. I think you've done a wonderful job." Darryl Jones, bassist with Miles 1983-85, 1986-1988
"The title is likely to send most jazzbos running, with received wisdom having handed down the rule that in the 80's Miles was only good for playing live; and half of that was just the pleasure of seeing him in person. For a single man to take on the 400-page+ task of changing popular opinion is a very tall order indeed. For him to make you want to actively revisit the decade in question is a near-miracle. Detailing album histories and giving final verdicts, Cole has made every effort to lay the evidence out bare. The analysis could have been a chore were it not for the presence of first-hand interviews with all the major players, making this not just a scholarly study, but a tribute to the man himself, And for a book such as this, you learn more about Davis that could have been expected." Jason Draper, Record Collector
"There simply hasn’t been another book published on Miles Davis, in any period that has managed to obtain the wealth of interview material and cover his recorded work and various live tours in such a complete and comprehensive fashion... Engagingly written from start to finish, filled with more facts than you’ll be able to remember first time through, The Last Miles is an essential portrait of Miles’ last decade and a strong argument that his music was both valid and perfectly in keeping with a musical philosophy that would ultimately stretch over six decades." John Kelman, All About Jazz.com
"We veterans of Miles’ last bands are lucky to have such a thorough and insightful look into Miles last period...I really enjoyed the book!" John Scofield, Miles's guitarist 1982-1985
"Cole has spoken to practically everyone who worked with Miles in his final decade. He has traced the evolution of each of those final albums, cut by cut, splice by splice….[Miles] comes out of Cole’s account larger, warmer and if anything even more important than ever." Brian Morton (co-writer of The Penguin Guide to Jazz), The Wire
"Through lively analyses of all Miles’ recorded work from this period and much that went unreleased, including the ‘lost’ album Rubberband, [Cole] does enough to send readers back to the original albums." Simon Evans, Choice
"... Cole is a persuasive writer: he prompted me to go and dig out albums that I'd dismissed as inconsequential and listen again with fresh ears. ... A rewarding read" Charles Waring, Blues & Soul
"Cole takes us on an exhaustive journey deep into the heart of Miles’ late recordings…The Last Miles needs to be covered by working musicians, producers and Miles’ fans alike." Livingstone Marquis, Straight, No Chaser
" George Cole has written a book that should be required reading for anyone with a serious interest in Davis’ life and work irrespective of which period of his music you prefer. It offers a valuable insight into this most complex of personalities, and reveals a side to Miles that many may not have known existed…for this reader it has prompted a re-examination of this decade which has revealed a fascinating area of music that I had previously overlooked." Nick Lea, Jazzviews.co.uk
"In the flurry of books since [Miles Davis's] death, none has dealt in depth with the music of this period. Music writer George Cole fills this gap. . . It is so detailed and intimate that the reader feels he is virtually living with Davis as he seeks to reinvent himself… a rich and rewarding read." Irwin Block, The Montreal Gazette
"This is a must for every Miles fan." Neal Gardner, Blogcritics.org
“A fantastic book, an amazing insight into Miles. Guy Barker, jazz trumpeter
“For Miles fans, this book is a must.” Jez Nelson, presenter BBC Radio Jazz on 3
“I really do recommend The Last Miles…it is a fine work.” John Cavanagh, presenter Radio Scotland’s Bebop to Hip-Hop
"A great book that plays a great tribute to the last years of Miles’ life.” Erik Telford, presenter Miles Radio.com
"The fact of having personally interviewed all those characters...without much recall to interviews already noted and the usual anecdotes, renders "The Last Miles" as excellent...a book that certainly is seen as a work of reference."Maurizio Comandini, All About Jazz.com Italy
"[Cole] has written a comprehensive account of the comeback and the albums it produced...He takes the reader through each of the albums, cut by cut, examining the musical choices, the musicians and their successes...Cole's book is a valuable resource on the last 11 years of a true music legend's life."Chris Smith, Winnipeg Free Press
"I've been thoroughly enjoying your book. I'm sure it'll go a long way towards rectifying some of the negative historical appraisals of Miles' later works that have become prevalent." Kei Akagi, keyboardist in Miles's band 1989-1990.
"Cole gives an exhaustive account of every track recorded [and, it seems, every live show] in that decade and of every one of the dozens of musicians who played on them but what's most interesting is the portrait of Miles Davis that emerges from it all. Sometimes an asshole and a bully, yes, but also a very funny guy who was a good friend to many and a mentor to even more, a man with drug problems who was more often in great pain from other maladies. Through it all, Davis was obsessed with moving his music forward with anyone who could help him do it - from Prince to Public Enemy, from Scritti Politti to a violinist he saw on Johnny Carson and hired on the spot." Rock & Rap Confidential
"I thought your book was awesome and straight to the point. To tell stories the way it really happened is nothing but the truth! Congratulations and thanks!"Ricky Wellman, Miles's drummer 1987-1991
"George Cole has made a major contribution to jazz scholarship...written over a three-year period, the degree of detail is quite astonishing and the research so extensive that it becomes possible to contradict claims made by Miles himself in his autobiography. Every track on every 1981-1991 album is discussed in length …a very valuable book.” Chris Yates, The Jazz Rag
“This book is a model of how these types of books should be…If late period Miles is in the readers’ interest, the reader should rush out and purchase this volume. It is invaluable.” Robert Iannapollo, ARSC Journal
The Last Miles was voted one of the top ten music books of 2005 by Record Collector magazine.
The Last Miles was joint winner of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections’ Best Jazz History Book 2006 award.
Contact George Cole at
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