Miles Davis’s chief musical inspiration during the 80’s was Prince. He even referred to the late Minneapolis music icon as a “genius” in an interview with Bill Boggs. In 1986,Miles left Columbia after a decades long relationship and signed with Warner Bros.-the label Prince happened to be recording on. Prince did compose one song with Miles for a planned album session between them. The song was called “Can I Play With U”. As the story goes,Prince pulled the song because he felt the song didn’t fit with the other material Miles had planned for the album,which he named for the Bishop Desmond Tutu.
Miles ended up working with the multi instrumentalist /composer/arranger/ producer Marcus Miller. Miller had been part of Miles band since the beginning of his comeback in 1980. The album Tutu finally came out in September of 1986. While the album was largely reviewed in the same snide manner as much as anything of Miles’ electric period,it did totally bring his sound into the electro funk era. The impropriety of South African apartheid seemed to be on Miles’ mind while making this album as well. And therefore it ended with a very powerful groove entitled “Full Nelson”.
Starting out with a bit of trumpet practice,Miles mutters “go ahead” before the song breaks in. The song has a stomping,Cameo style drum machine beat. A pulsing,ultrasound type electronic bass sound bubbles into the back-round. Miller starts out playing a thick rhythm guitar. Than when his slap bass comes in,Miles improvise across the bass lines. Those lines descend into Miles on trumpet and Miller on sax playing the strong choral melody over an ethereal,orchestral synthesizer. After several rounds of Miles soloing across thick bass and synth pops,the song fades out again on it’s chorus.
Miles Davis really perfected his understanding of the full bodied funk song on “Full Nelson”. Marcus Miller totally embodies the Prince approach of multi layering digital horn synthesizers,melody and bass/guitar interaction with Miles trademark trumpet soloing style. Miller also lends that distinctive style of his own to the Minneapolis style groove here-including a somewhat thicker rhythmic stomp. Miles gets all the space and accents he needs to do his own thing as well. Tutu is a strong mid 80’s rebirth for Miles as it stands. And that it ends on possibly it’s most funky note says a lot.