It’s been quite a run lately for unearthed recordings by some of the biggest names in jazz. Over the last year, we’ve seen two new John Coltrane records, along with recordings by Wes Montgomery, Stan Getz and now Miles Davis all coming to light.
This one by Miles may be the most conflicting of them all. Titled Rubberband, it was recorded at the end of 1985 and into 1986, and it was his first release for Warner Bros.
At that time, Davis had just released You’re Under Arrest, his most “pop” album ever, featuring tunes from Michael Jackson and Cindy Lauper. This may have been what led to his break from Columbia Records after all those years.
His nephew Vince Wilburn Jr. was playing drums with him at the time and, more than 30 years later, he was instrumental in putting Rubberband together for its current release. Wilburn said Davis was obsessed with MTV at the time, leaving it on his TV all day, and he yearned for a hit. So, he rounded up a crew of young players and headed into a studio in Hollywood trying to do just that. What the group came up with after a few months did not make his new label happy, and they shelved the entire record.
It took Wilbur and his team three years to restore and prepare the album’s 11 tracks for release. They’ve added new sounds, drum loops and keyboards, along with vocals laid on two tracks by Lalah Hathaway and Ledisi.
The recording only gives you a small taste of Davis’s trumpet, weaving in and out of the grooves with his unmistakable sound. It continues to show an artist striving and searching. How much he succeeded is up for debate, but Rubberband at least gives us a snapshot (if somewhat altered) of where Miles Davis was at this very unique time in music history.
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