Miles Davis: Live at Montreux - Highlights 1973-1991
Miles Davis, 1973
From there it's a fast-forward to 1984, and a band that remained largely constant for two years, featuring Scofield, saxophonist Bob Berg and bassist Darryl Jones. The fast-funk of "Speak: That's What Happened," and two tracks from the following yearthe equally fiery "Code MD" and propulsive but lyrical version of Davis alum John McLaughlin's "Pacific Express"all find Davis at the top of his game, hitting the high notes with unbridled power, and mining the midrange with his unparalleled combination of rich tone and fragile vulnerability. Long transcending the moniker of jazz star and becoming star, period, the clothes here and throughout the rest of the DVD may have been the 1980s at their worst; still, few but Davis could actually pull it off. Scofield may have been the most conservatively dressed, but his edgy ability to bend notes with bluesman conviction while taking the harmonies deliciously out, make clear just how much he helped fuel Davis' music, from the time he joined in 1983 (co-writing some of the best material on 1983's Decoy and You're Under Arrest) until the trumpeter left Columbia Records in 1985 and made another paradigm shift with the release of Tutu, for Warner Bros, in 1986.
These Montreux performances have alsountil very recently, with the release of the Deluxe Edition of Tutu (Warner Jazz, 2011)been the only place to hear a baby-faced Robben Ford, playing with the now-wigged Davis, covering up the increasingly receding hairline of 1985. If Ford has always leaned a little heavier on the blues end of the equation than Scofield, the guitarist's solo on an increasingly incendiary "Jean-Pierre" matches, temperature-for-temperature, guest saxophonist David Sanborn's feature earlier in the tune, affirming that both players may have made specific choices about the ultimate directions of their own careersFord, a bluesman, albeit with a broader jazz vernacular, and Sanborn ranging from soul-driven smooth jazz to the occasional affirmation of more left-of-center concernsbut they always were (and remain) players with broad purviews, and no shortage of chops and taste where it counts.
With a year's hiatus, Davis returned in 1988 with a newly revamped band that brought saxophonist Kenny Garrett and lead bassist Foley into the fold, but it's percussionist Marilyn Mazur who's the focal point (and fulcrum) of "Heavy Metal Prelude," moving around her almost unfathomable percussion setup in ways that barely foreshadow the music she'd make on her own in her native Denmark, towards the end of the 1990s and into the 21st Century. While Tutu is overlooked on this compilation (it won't be when the full DVD box is released; Ford's solo on the title track during the 1986 show actually surpassing his playing on "Jean-Pierre"), two tracks from Amandla (Warner Bros., 1989) demonstrate how Davis could turn more programmed studio material into exhilarating live grist. Foley's roots may be even more blues-centric than Ford's, but tenor saxophonist Rick Margitzasandwiched as a Davis alum between Garrett's first appearance in 1988 and involvement with Davis from late-1989 through to the end of his lifeis evidence of a player too-often overlooked, as he solos here with a combination of musculature and focused, thematic drive.