Miles Davis late 70’s retirement period was the basis of the main plot in Don Cheadle’s semi fictitious biopic Miles Ahead this year. While he recorded some unreleased sessions with Gil Evans during this period,Miles made what he admits to be the one crucial mistake of his career. He stopped practicing trumpet. As a beginner level alto sax player as a child,I understand how lack of practice can lead to losing ones embrasure-the key to playing any horn instrument. When his nephew,the drummer Vince Wilburn convinced Miles to start recording again,regaining that embrasure was Miles’ biggest challenge musically.
When Miles got back in the Columbia studio in 1980,he was working with a group of younger musicians. The then 54 year old trumpet icon once said of his approach to music overall was to keep creating and changing. To would keep from getting stale and safe. One of the new musicians was the bass player/composer Marcus Miller. Miller as also a multi instrumentalist. He understood along with the other players such as Bill Evans, Al Foster and Robert Irving III how to bring Miles into the 1980’s. His 80’s debut The Man With The Horn contains a superb example of this in the song “Shout”.
Thick sheets of up scaling synthesizers bring in the song over rolling percussion. After that the drums kick into place. Along with a six note bass line which equals out with the instruments lowest and highest tones. Miles himself plays a succinct, indeed shouting main melody on the choruses. Each trumpet solo is accompanied by Randy Hall’s chicken scratch guitar that plays throughout the song. After the refrain where Miles’s solo becomes more rhythmic in tone,he takes an improvised solo that extends right into higher pitched soaring before the song fades out on the chorus.
Composed with Randy Hall and Robert Irving III,”Shout” might be the finest funk SONG Miles Davis had done up to this point. Rhythmically it’s very structured. Miles s keeps the melody strong on the main themes and improvised soloing. Hall and Irving also seem to have had the same early understanding of Prince’s Minneapolis sound. The horns are soloing elements while the synths and guitar lines play orchestral roles. With the rhythm locked in tight,yet the sound so full this song sets an important standard with Miles for more electronic orchestrated jazz funk for the remainder of the 1980’s.