Miles Davis: The Definitive Miles Davis at Montreux DVD Collection 1973-1991
Miles Davis, 1985
But the truth is that, while we only get to see 28 minutes of Davis in 1973with a psychedelic-hazed group that also included the do-rag-headed saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarists Reggie Lucas and Pete Cosey, bassist Michael Henderson, drummer Al Foster and percussionist James Mtumeit's an all-too-rare window into a time when accusations that Davis had sold out were curious, at best. Given the rambling, dense, dissonance-heavy music of "Ife," where Davis plays more with the new organ he'd recently received than his horn (and Nobs' interview talks about this at length), it once again raises the question that those who've taken the time to actually listen to albums like On the Corner (Columbia, 1972)an album almost universally reviled by the jazz cognoscenti at the time, despite some of those same folks, nearly 40 years later, now deeming it an innovative masterpieceare wondering: who, exactly, was Davis selling out to?
The interview footage varies, with some of the best material coming from Hancockwho, of course, has plenty of stories to telland Nobs, whose story of finding a sports cars for Davis in return for selling chickens belonging to the wife of the car's owner, is just one of many endearing tales. Santana's stories, while certainly heartfelt, aren't particularly deep or profound; more fawning than factual. The quickie interviews with the others on the first DVD add little, though Monty Alexander's tale of meeting Davis for the first timer is sweet. That the DVD doesn't include English subtitles when violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and pianist Michel Petrucciani revert to French is an oversight that would be more significant, if they had participated in longer interviews, but with just a couple minutes each, it's simply not that important.
It's also not important because, while the interviews are worth watching once, it's the 18 hours of concert footage that makes the collection essential viewing for Davis fanseven those already familiar with these performances through the audio box. 1980s fashion asideand few but Davis could pull much of this off, though Berg manages the embodiment of Brooklyn nonchalance in the five shows in which he appears (1984-86), while percussionist Marilyn Mazur's enthusiastically physical percussion solo on "Heavy Metal Prelude," from the 1988 show, is an early indicator of a performance style that's continued to this day, as recently as an appearance at the Punkt 2011it's one experience to listen to these shows, another to watch them. And it's more than because, for musicians, it's a chance to watch these players do what they dothough it's sure a boon for guitarists to not just get nearly six hours of prime Scofield, but to see a baby-faced Robben Ford tear it up at the end of "Jean-Pierre," the only song to show up in every show between 1984 and 1988it's just plain more exciting. Davis' shows may have been more structured, but the trumpeterwhose health varied considerably across his final decade, his 1990/91 shows remarkable feats for a man whose health was on the declinesurely knew a thing or three about giving his live shows an arc that flowed from peak to peak and rarelyif everlagged.