Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland don’t need to reunite as The Police. Their music lives on and thrives today without them having to lift a finger.
“I’ll Be Missing You,” Puff Daddy’s tribute to murdered friend The Notorious B.I.G., liberally sampled Summers’ distinctive guitar work off The Police’s 1983 No. 1 hit “Every Breath You Take.” It topped Billboard’s pop chart last summer and became the third best-selling song of 1997.
The Police, meanwhile, are on the charts now with the Puff Daddy remix of “Roxanne,” from the hot-selling “The Very Best of Sting & The Police” (A&M). It’s as if they never left.
“We don’t have to get back together at all,” Summers said recently. “It’s probably a good idea not to.”
Summers didn’t retreat after The Police unofficially disbanded in 1986. He forged a successful solo career that included a Grammy nomination for his 1989 album “The Golden Wire” and still flourishes with his recently released RCA Victor debut, the jazz-tinged “The Last Dance of Mr. X.” He also was inducted into the Guitar Player Hall of Fame and last month was among a group of distinguished guitarists honored by the Smithsonian Institute.
“The Last Dance of Mr. X” finds Summers back in a trio setting, with Tony Levin on bass and Greg Bissonnette on drums. As expected, Summers plays with grace and power through a mixture of original material and jazz classics (such as Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” and Wayne Shorter’s “The Three Marias”).
“The music is more jazz-oriented in a more obvious sense but broader because I played some jazz standards on it,” Summers said, “so a lot of people who’ve written about it have called it a jazz album. It’s hooking on to the most obvious thing, but the album is more than that.”
Summers’ fan base draws mainly from those who have followed his career since The Police formed in the late 1970s, but he says plenty of young people seeking to expand their musical knowledge attend his shows. Still, no matter where he goes, he can’t elude The Police.
“I don’t sit around thinking about the old days. That’s a waste of time,” he said. “However, it remains present because there’s always stuff going on, like the remix. In terms of Police stuff, it’s been very active. A sort of ‘Basement Tapes’ came out; there’s the new disc out now (‘The Very Best of Sting & The Police’), so I never get that far from it. I think more about making records myself, touring. That’s a full engagement.”
More than anything, Summers is puzzled by the popularity of “I’ll Be Missing You.”
“I don’t know if I would say I was flattered by what (Puff Daddy) did. That’s not a word that comes to mind somehow,” he said. “I mean, if he had done some brilliant thing with it, that might be different, but it was so tawdry and sort of weak, although it was a huge hit. I think it was a hit because of the melody.
“Who knows why it was a hit, really. We know it was a hit before because of the excellence of the song, but I don’t know if it was (Puff Daddy’s) popularity that made it a hit or what. I don’t understand it, really.”
Summers gets his greatest satisfaction from recording and performing.
“If you’re a real player, you play for yourself as well, so there’s always this sort of inner dialogue with music,” he said. “I want the whole experience continue to be enriched. Twenty-five years ago, if you had asked me (about personal goals), I would’ve said, ‘Ugh.’ I suppose from a lot of English mouths from my generation the phrase would be ‘to make it.’
“But I was in a famous band; I already did that, so it doesn’t seem like a logical goal at this point. There are other goals. My goal, at this point, would be to sustain a really interesting musical life and continue playing. That’s the thrill for me, not necessarily getting another Top 10 hit record with a rock band, because I’ve done that.”
BWF (before we forget): Join Andy Summers on the Web @ www.andysummers.com or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. … The Andy Summers solo album discography – “XYZ” (MCA, 1986); “Mysterious Barricades” (Private Music, 1986); “The Golden Wire” (1989); “Charming Snakes” (Private Music/Windham Hill, 1990); “World Gone Strange” (1991); “Synaesthesia” (CMP, 1995); “The Last Dance of Mr. X” (RCA Victor, 1997).