Venue: Shinjuku Nishi-Guchi Horoba, Tokyo, Japan
Date: 4th October 1981
Soon after finishing the recording of his comeback album The Man With The Horn in early 1981, Miles turned his attention to going back on the road after an absence of six years. The band he chose consisted of almost everyone who had played on the final track recorded for the album, “Fat Time”, namely, Miles (trumpet); Mike Stern (guitar); Bill Evans (tenor and soprano sax); Marcus Miller (bass); and Al Foster (drums). Percussionist Mino Cinelu was new to the band. The tour began in the US in the summer of 1981, with Miles also playing electric piano.
Miles in Tokyo, October 1981
Bill Evans and Miles in Tokyo, October 1981
Al Foster, Miles and Mike Stern in Tokyo, October 1981
In October, Miles played a string of dates in Japan – his first since 1975. This concert (like all others) was sold out and the band played two sets, totalling 75 minutes. The first set consisted of four tunes: “Back Seat Betty”, “Ursula”, “My Man’s Gone Now” and “Aida.” The second set featured “Fat Time” and “Jean-Pierre.” This gig is well documented. One of the tunes, “Jean-Pierre”, appears on the live album We Want Miles and the full concert is on a Japan-only release Miles! Miles! Miles!. Three tracks from Miles! Miles! Miles! (“Fat Time”, “Ursula” and “Aida”) are on a special edition of We Want Miles included in the Complete Columbia Album Collection boxed set.
Mike Stern, Mino Cinelu, Bill Evans in Tokyo, October 1981
Mino Cinelu in Tokyo, October 1981
Al Foster and Marcus Miller in Tokyo, October 1981
Fortunately, the concert was also filmed by the Japanese national broadcaster NHK and later transmitted. In order to keep the running time to around one hour, “Fat Time” was not broadcast and some numbers were edited. Even so, it’s great to see the band in action, even though Miles was weak and sick at the time (at the 9-minute mark, there’s a close-up of Miles wiping his mouth with a tissue and he looks very frail). That said, Miles plays for long stretches. Miles looks dapper (if a little thin) in a brown corduroy jumpsuit, cravat and white cap, and the rest of the band are dressed casually – Marcus Miller even has a pair of sunglasses resting on his forehead. One thing very noticeable is how different Mike Stern looked back then – he is about 50 pounds heavier than he is today – Miles’ nickname for him was “Fat Time”.
Bill Evans, Miles and Marcus Miller in the background in Tokyo, October 1981
Miles in Tokyo, October 1981
Al Foster in Tokyo, October 1981
The opening number, “Back Seat Betty” is played at a faster tempo than the album version. Miller and Foster are a rock-solid rhythm section and Cinelu plays flamboyantly. Bill Evans plays soprano sax and sounds more comfortable than he did on The Man With The Horn. Stern plays an explosive solo while Miles plays with muted trumpet and constantly walks around the stage – he later said in his autobiography that he had to keep moving, otherwise, his joints would have seized up. The second number, “Ursula”, is very different from the album version, which was an 11-minute jazz-swing number. Here, it is transformed to a two-minute tune consisting of Miller playing a jazz-funk vamp and Miles blowing some thin lines of muted horn over it. The ballad “My Man’s Gone Now”, has Miles playing long stretches of open horn, and at one point, he even pauses to take a drag of a cigarette! “Aida” is played energetically and includes blazing solos from Evans on tenor sax and Stern on guitar. Mino Cinelu also solos, sitting astride a conga drum at the front of the stage and using two hands and a foot whilst playing. It was a party piece he would repeat many times in concert. At the coda, Miles directs Al Foster to play a series of cymbal crashes, which he clearly enjoyed, because there’s a smile on his face as he turns to face the audience. The song segues into “Jean-Pierre.” [“Fat Time” was actually the next number]. Like the version which appears on We Want Miles, the tune is edited, omitting a short guitar/percussion intro (which can be heard on the full version on Miles! Miles! Miles!) and starting with Marcus Miller’s now-famous funk bass vamp. This number became Miles’ signature tune of the 80s and he played it at almost all of his concerts until 1988 (and again in a special concert in Paris in July 1991). At the end of the song, Miles gives a short wave, and then walks off stage.
Marcus Miller, Al Foster and Mike Stern in Tokyo, October 1981
Bill Evans in Tokyo, October 1981
Miles with horn and cigarette in Tokyo, October 1981
The TV broadcast of this concert has been uploaded to YouTube.
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