"YOU'RE UNDER ARREST" is Miles Davis' most diverting album of the '80s. After all, the very thought of hearing Davis warm up to a couple of hit songs popularized by Michael Jackson ("Human Nature") and Cyndi Lauper ("Time After Time") holds a certain curious appeal, and the performances, while hardly earth-shaking, have an undeniable pop charm as well.
Not as expressive as Davis' recent studio effort "Star People," and without the incendiary flashes heard on the live recording "We Want Miles," "Arrest" nevertheless displays Davis' melodic gifts and his characteristic muted tone to excellent advantage on the pop ballads. He hews closely to the melodies of both songs, seemingly bemused by the insinuating contours of "Human Nature" and bewitched by Lauper's reflective theme.
Elsewhere, Davs pursues techno-funk with uneven results. The album opens with "One Phone Call/Street Scenes," a hopelessly contrived aural collage of B-movie dialogue and electronic doodling, which he wrote. Eventually, though, the music becomes leaner and more cohesive. Bassist Darryl Jones underpins much of the album with a big, persuasive tone and the drumming of Vince Wilburn Jr. and Al Foster meshes nicely with Steve Thornton's colorful percussion. Keyboardist Robert Irving III is primarily responsible for creating the thickly layered arrangements Davis has come to favor.
Anther change for the better is the discreet use of soloists. Many of Davis' recent albums have suffered from tediously indulgent instrumental forays, but here the playing of guitarists John Scofield and John McLaughlin and saxophonist Bob Berg is much more concise. As is his custom, Davis often waits for his musicians to create an appealing groove before contributing his own id His work with McLaughlin on "Katia" and "Ms. Morrisene" is particularly satisfying.
While Davis has dabbled in more trendy music of late, his former drummer, Philly Joe Jones, has been busy celebrating the legacy of jazz composer and arranger Tadd Dameron, who died 20 years ago, Recorded in 1978, Jones' latest album, "Drum Song," pre-dates the formation of his current band, Dameronia, but it contains a lively Slide Hampton arrangement of the Dameron classic "Our Delight." Mostly, though, "Drum Song" is notable for containing some of trumpeter Blue Mitchell's last recordings.
MILES DAVIS -- "You're Under Arrest" (Columbia FC 40023); appearing Friday at 8 at the Washington Convention Center as part of the Capital City Jazz Festival.
PHILLY JOE JONES -- "Drum Song" (Galaxy Gxy 5153); appearing with Dameronia Saturday at 8 at the Washingon Convention Center.