Miles Davis - Trumpet
Marcus Miller - All other instruments, Bass guitar on "Backyard Ritual"
Jason Miles - Synthesizer programming
Paulinho da Costa - Percussion on "Tutu", "Portia", "Splatch", Backyard Ritual"
Adam Holzman - Synth solo on "Splatch"
Steve Reid - Additional percussion on "Splatch"
George Duke - All except percussion, bass guitar, and trumpet on "Backyard Ritual"
Omar Hakim - Drums and percussion on "Tomaas"
Bernard Wright - Additional synthesizers on "Tomaas" and "Don't Lose Your Mind"
Micha? Urbaniak - Electric violin on "Don't Lose Your Mind"
Jabali Billy Hart - Drums, bongos
In 1985, Miles Davis' thirty year association with Columbia Records came to an end and the jazz legend, who managed to reinvent jazz a dozen times over managed to reinvent the price value of jazz recording contracts when he signed with Warner Brothers. What Davis unfortunately didn't seem to do was read past the bottom line and his royalties for songwriting would lie with Warner Brothers, not with him. As a result, Davis refused to compose anything on his own and instead brought his former bass player Marcus Miller to compose for him. Miller wrote compositions for Davis and set up a framework in which the trumpeter could solo. The first album resulting from this collaboration, "Tutu", proves to be one of the great records of Davis' career, and like "Sketches of Spain" before it, provides a powerful launching pad for Davis and coaxes out of him one of his best performances.
Musically, the album is guaranteed to alienate Davis fans everywhere-- while he'd abandoned acoustic instruments as the only way to go in the '60s, this album was an embracing of synthesizers, drum machines, and electric instruments, even moreso than his previous records were. Miller performed all the electric and acoustic instruments (including bass guitar, electric guitar, at least some live drums, soprano sax, bass clarinet and synthesizers) with additional contributions in synth programming from Ron Miles and Adam Holzman and one track ("Backyard Ritual") where George Duke assumes the framing role. The album does sound (particularly in the drum tracks) a bit dated, but this in no way gets in the way of enjoying the album anymore than acoustic basses get in the way of enjoying Davis' '50s work-- in fact, it all adds to the ambience. Most importantly is that Davis, who sometimes seemed a bit unengaged with his own music on his later recordings, is full of fire and passion-- blows powerfully in a number of different moods, be it passion and fir ("Tutu"), a deep romanticism and yearning ("Portia"), funky explosiveness ("Splatch") or bouncey ecstacy ("Perfect Way").
For the purists who claim it's not jazz if it has electric instruments, programmed beats, or synthesizers-- skip this, you'll find nothing to like and nothing I say will convince you otherwise, even though this album is one of the best of its form. For those who question bringing in Miller to frame Davis and would make the statement this is a Marcus Miller record thinly veiled as a Miles Davis album-- remember that Gil Evans set up the same kind of framings for Davis, and no one views "Miles Ahead" or "Sketches of Spain" (or for that matter "The Birth of the Cool" where Davis only cowrote one piece) as anything other than a Miles Davis album. The fact is, this album is one of the best of its generation, and time and again, Davis proved he was capable of shaking the jazz world apart. And I suspect it's no coincidence that in his absence, a regressionist viewpoint has taken hold in commercial jazz. "Tutu" is a relic of a time when artists were not afraid to try something new. Highly recommended.