A series of profiles of the musicians who played in Miles’s bands during 1981-1991. Follow the links to read complete profiles of each musician.
There’s also a bonus addition of a Miles Davis Timeline, where the major events of Miles’ life in the 1980s are laid out chronologically. There’s also Miles’s former musicians musing about what Miles would have been up to on his 80th birthday, plus 80 facts you may not have not known about Miles
Miles played with some great saxophonists, including Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, so the saxophonist’s chair was always a hard one to fill. In the early part of his comeback years, Miles’s saxophonists played both soprano and tenor sax, but towards the end of his career, Miles went back to the alto sound.
Miles was once asked: “What makes a good band?” His answer was typically short and to the point: “In the first place, you’ve got to get the drummer. No drummer, no band.” Rhythm was important to Miles and everyone who played with Miles describes how he always gave the drummer the hardest time. During the 1980s, Miles only ever used three drummers – a testament to the talents of those who filled the drummer’s chair during this period.
Rhythm had always been important to Miles and in the 1970s, his bands featured star percussionists such as Airto, Mtume and Don Alias. All but the last of Miles’s bands in his comeback years featured a percussionist, and in the mid-1980s, he even had two in his band.
In May 1973, Lonnie Liston Smith left Miles’s band and became the last specialist keyboardist in a Miles Davis group for more than a decade (Miles of course was away from the music scene for half of this period). Until August 1983, Miles played all of the keyboards on-stage himself, starting with a Yamaha organ and in the early 1980s, using an Oberheim OBX-a synthesizer.
In the 1980s, keyboardists were mainly hired for their ability to create orchestral soundscapes and sonic moods, rather than for their virtuosity (although all of Miles’s keyboardists were highly talented players). Many bands featured two or more keyboardists, with Miles often making up the third player.
In 1970, Miles recruited 19-year old bassist Michael Henderson to his band and from that moment on, Miles’s bands would never be the same again. Henderson was primarily a funk bassist (he had played with Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin amongst others) and all his successors would be essentially funk bassists too.
Jimi Hendrix inspired Miles to include guitarists in his 1970s bands – at one stage, Miles even had three guitarists in the same line-up! During his comeback years, Miles used an assortment of guitarists with a diverse range of styles, strengths and experiences.
:: Happy Birthday Miles!
Miles Davis would have 80 years old in May 2006 – TLM celebrates with views from former Miles band members on what he would have been doing
:: 80 Facts About Miles
TLM provides 80 little-known facts about Miles in the 1980s
:: In Memoria
TLM pays tribute to key Mile Davis figures who have sadly passed away in recent years