by Charles David
Miles Davis and Irving Penn working together, for their first and only time, created an unstoppable synergy; one, a constant perfectionist of his ground-breaking music and the other, a constant perfectionist of his ground-breaking photography.
When master photographer Irving Penn and Master trumpeter Miles Davis hung out together for the first time, it became a collaboration, in the photography and music world, of epic, proportions. This stunning photograph is one of my favorite images from that encounter between these genuiues. It was for Davis’s long awaited album TuTu, in 1986. The controversial but memorable TuTu was written in tribute to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the first black Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa. These two icons, whose paths had never crossed before, clearly had a natural chemistry in the studio-as expressed movingly through this series of images-and why not? Miles and Penn were masters of their craft, who embraced changing times in the 80s, during which, a new kind of music known as “Birth of The Cool” was incubating.
TuTu was the birth of a new kind of cool-mostly duets. It was heavily inspired by mid-80s R&B and funk, with heavy use of organ like synthesizers and drum machines. Full Nelson, which incorporates the pop element against the asthmatic whisper of Davis’ trumpet, is a very special track and a favorite on the album. It alludes to then imprisoned South African politician, young Nelson Mandela. Davis originally wanted pop icon Prince to be on the album, but it never ended up working out. Word has it, Prince, mr perfectionist, recorded his tracks, but in the end didn’t think they were up to scratch with the rest of the album’s material.
Davis reached out to legendary baseman Marcus Miller who laid down some tracks and the two completed TuTu, and it was finally released at the end of 1986. (to the joy of warner bros’ happy brass ). TuTu became an instant classic upon its debut-winning Davis the Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance on an album, in 1987. Brief, but notable appearances on TuTu were made by violinist Michal Urbaniak, Brazilian percussionist Paulinho Da Costa, keyboardist and our friend from the west coast, mr George Duke, among other musicians. For TuTu’s album cover, this was the image chosen from the series.