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Miles Davis "Tutu": A Jewel in His Discography


Miles Davis Tutu
Image: Warner Brothers

Miles Davis, the iconic jazz musician, is known for his boundary-pushing musical style and his ability to constantly evolve and innovate. Throughout his career, Davis released numerous influential albums that captivated audiences and solidified his position as one of the greatest musicians of all time. One such album that stands out in his discography is “Tutu.” Released in 1986, “Tutu” broke new ground and left an indelible mark on the jazz world. In this article, we will delve into the story behind “Tutu,” explore Davis’ musical journey leading up to its release, and examine its impact on contemporary music.

Early Life and Musical Influences

Miles Davis was born on May 26, 1926, in Alton, Illinois. Growing up in a musical family, he was exposed to various forms of music from an early age. Davis’ father was a dentist and an amateur violinist, while his mother was a blues pianist. These early musical influences would play a significant role in shaping Davis’ unique style and approach to music.

During his formative years, Davis developed a love for the trumpet. He was drawn to the sound and the expressiveness of the instrument and quickly became proficient. He drew inspiration from the likes of Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie, embracing their melodic and improvisational approach to jazz.

Breaking Boundaries with the Birth of Cool

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Davis emerged as a key figure in the development of the “cool jazz” movement. The release of his album “Birth of the Cool” in 1957 marked a significant departure from the traditional bebop style. Davis, along with his collaborators, reimagined jazz by employing a more relaxed, subtle, and introspective sound. This album would go on to influence countless musicians and set the stage for Davis’ future musical explorations.

Career Evolution and the Birth of Fusion Jazz

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Davis continued to push the boundaries of jazz. He embraced elements of rock, funk, and electronic music, leading to the birth of fusion jazz. Albums such as “In a Silent Way” (1969) and “Bitches Brew” (1970) showcased Davis’ willingness to experiment and merge different genres, resulting in groundbreaking compositions.

Davis’ foray into fusion jazz was met with mixed reactions from the jazz community. Some critics and purists felt that he had abandoned the traditional jazz sound in favor of commercial success. However, Davis remained steadfast in his pursuit of innovation, relentlessly pushing the boundaries of the genre.

The Making of ‘Tutu’ and its Impact

By the time the 1980s rolled around, Davis had already established himself as a musical pioneer. It was during this decade that he teamed up with producer and collaborator Marcus Miller to create “Tutu.” The album was named after Desmond Tutu, the South African archbishop and human rights activist, and was dedicated to him.

“Tutu” showcased Davis’ ability to incorporate contemporary sounds while maintaining his artistic integrity. The album blended elements of funk, rock, and electronic music with Davis’ signature trumpet sound. Tracks like “Tutu” and “Portia” featured infectious grooves, layered synthesizers, and Davis’ impeccable improvisations. The album also included a cover of the iconic pop song “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper, further highlighting Davis’ ability to reimagine popular music with his unique jazz sensibilities.

Upon its release, “Tutu” received critical acclaim and commercial success. It won Davis his first Grammy Award in eight years, rejuvenating his career and introducing a new generation to his music. The album captured the attention of not only jazz enthusiasts but also fans of various genres, cementing Davis’ status as a pioneer and a true musical chameleon.

Track List

Miles Davis Tutu Track List


Miles Davis' album "Tutu" features a variety of talented musicians. The primary collaboration on the album is between Miles Davis on trumpet and Marcus Miller, who played multiple instruments, including bass guitar, guitar, synthesizers, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, and drums.

Other musicians who made appearances on the album include:

  • Jason Miles – additional synthesizer programming

  • George Duke – keyboardist

  • Adam Holzman – keyboardist

  • Bernard Wright – keyboardist

  • Paulinho da Costa – percussionist

  • Michal Urbaniak – violinist

  • Omar Hakim – drums, percussion

  • Steve Reid – additional percussion

Legacy and Influence on Contemporary Music

The impact of “Tutu” on contemporary music cannot be overstated. The album demonstrated that jazz could be modern and relevant while still retaining its essence. Davis’ fusion of genres opened the door for future musicians to explore new sonic landscapes and experiment with different musical styles.

Countless artists across genres, ranging from hip-hop to electronic music, have cited Davis as a major influence. His willingness to challenge the status quo and defy genre conventions continues to inspire musicians to this day.

“Tutu” stands as a jewel in Miles Davis’ discography, a testament to his ability to adapt and evolve throughout his career. The album’s fusion of funk, rock, and electronic music showcased Davis’ visionary approach to jazz, leaving an indelible mark on the genre and influencing contemporary musicians. The legacy of “Tutu” serves as a reminder of Davis’ immense talent and his enduring impact on the world of music.



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