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DVD/Video/Film Reviews

Miles Davis: Live at Montreux - Highlights 1973-1991

By Published: July 27, 2011
The final electric performance, "Hannibal," from 1990, finds Garrett back in the sax chair, taking a burning outro solo, but it's Davis who owns the tune, first with a delicate mute, but then opening up the horn for a mid-section solo that demonstrates his declining health did little to distract him from playing in those final 14 months before he passed away, in September, 1991. None of these performances include his occasional speaking into his trumpet microphone, or his series of printed placards ("KENNY"), but throughout, Davis is a charismatic leader, yet one who is clearly generous in pushing (sometimes, almost literally) his band members into the spotlight.

Miles Davis with John Scofield, 1985

The final two pieces on the DVD have been seen before, on VHS tape as Live at Montreux (Warner Bros, 1993), but this represents the first time on DVD for this big band performance—conducted by Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
and featuring Garrett and trumpet protégé Wallace Roney
Wallace Roney
Wallace Roney
beside Davis, alongside the Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
Orchestra and George Gruntz
George Gruntz
George Gruntz
1932 - 2013
Concert Jazz Band—doing the one thing Davis said he'd never do: look back. Performing material from Davis' 1950s collaborations with Evans, these two tracks from Sketches of Spain demonstrate both Davis' steady decline, as he passes the baton, after a short solo during "Solea," to Roney, and the indomitable strength of spirit that defined this enduring artist, regardless of his physical condition.

The bonus feature, a 27-minute interview with Carlos Santana
Carlos Santana
Carlos Santana
, offers few actual insights, but there are a few amusing—and revealing—anecdotes. Of all the musicians who have lived within the Davis sphere of the early '70s, Santana is the least-versed, at least linguistically speaking, when it comes to playing jazz, but he was an insider, and it's clear that Davis' love for the guitarist went beyond simple vernacular and into the realm of spirit and attitude. Hopefully the forthcoming box will feature more interviews with those in Davis' inner sanctum, to help uncover and make sense of the complexities of the trumpeter's life.

The multi-DVD box set may only appeal to the admittedly legion of completists who are ready to sit through 20 hours of concert performances; but for those interested but less pathological, Live at Montreux—Highlights 1973-1991 provides the perfect opportunity to see why Miles Davis was unfairly maligned by jazz police during the last part of his life. It's also a chance to see, rather than just hear, his tacit ability to guide a seemingly endless stream of musicians—bringing out the absolute best in them and kick-starting careers that might well have gone differently, were it not for time spent in the company of a musician who not only changed direction multiple times during his career, but could shift the direction of a single performance with the slightest of nods.

Tracks: Ife (1973); Speak: That's What Happened (1984); Code MD (1985); Pacific Express (1985); Jean-Pierre (1986); Heavy Metal Prelude (1988); Jo Jo (1989); Hannibal (1990); The Pan Piper (1991); Solea (1991).

Personnel: Miles Davis: trumpet, keyboards; Dave Liebman: saxophone and flute (1); Pete Cosey: guitar and percussion (1); Reggie Lucas: guitar (1); Michael Henderson: bass (1); Al Foster: drums (1-2); James "Mtume" Foreman: percussion (1); Bob Berg: saxophone (2-5), keyboards (2-4); John Scofield: guitar (2-4); Robert Irving III: keyboards (2-6), Vince Wilburn, Jr. (3-5); Darryl Jones: bass (2-4); Steve Thornton: percussion (2-5); Adam Holzman (5-7); Robben Ford: guitar (5); Felton Crewes: bass (5); David Sanborn: alto saxophone (5); Kenny Garrett: alto saxophone (6, 8-10); Foley: lead bass (6-8); Benny Rietveld: bass (6-7); Ricky Wellman: drums (6-8); Marilyn Mazur: percussion (6); Rick Margitza: tenor saxophone (7); Kei Akagi: keyboards (7-8); Munyungo Jackson: percussion (7); Richard Patterson: bass (8); Erin Davis: percussion (8); Quincy Jones: conductor (9-10); Wallace Roney: trumpet and flugelhorn (9-10); Lew Soloff: trumpet (9-10); Miles Evans: trumpet (9-10); Tom Malone: trombone (9-10); Alex Foster: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone and flute (9-10); George Adams: tenor saxophone and flute (9-10); Gil Goldstein: keyboards (9-10); Delmar Brown: keyboards (9-10); Kenwood Denard: percussion (9-10); Benny Bailey: trumpet and flugelhorn (9-10); Charles Benavent: bass and electric bass (9-10); Grady Tate: drums (9-10); The George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band: orchestra (9-10).

DVD Feature: Running Time: 133 minutes. Bonus Feature: Interview with Carlos Santana (27 minutes).

Photo Credit
Stills taken from Miles Davis, Live at Montreux—Highlights 1973-1991, courtesy of Eagle Eye Media.

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