In 1991 Miles Davis, the king of cool notorious for his anti-revisionary stand was persuaded by the legendary Quincy Jones to take to the stage for what would be his last of many appearances at Montreux’s legendary Jazz Festival.
The occasion was to be significant in many ways as Davis paid tribute to the recent passing of his great friend and collaborator Gil Evans.
To those not familiar with the world of modern jazz, it is often portrayed as elitist, experimental nonsense. What this performance captures however is a parallel strand of cool and funky black music that, whilst sophisticated, actually grooves with the best of James Brown, Prince, or Dr Dre.
Following a hipper than thou introduction by the legend that is Quincy Jones, Davis leads Evans’ band through a fitting rendition of their greatest hits.
Davis on lead horn captures the elegant, yet urgent, playing that has seen him lauded as the greatest player of his time. Supported by a band so intensely cool you could chill your beer on them, they move steadily through some of modern jazz’s finest moments.
Highlight of the concert, ‘My Ship’ captures Davis at his chilling best. Haunting is an overused adjective but the look of ethereal detachment that Davis conjures up whilst riffing in and out of the band certainly evokes a spiritual manifestation.
By the time the band come close to climax with the gorgeously funky, ‘Here Comes De Money Man’ it’s clear that this is not just a performance, but a historical moment captured forever.
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Davis himself passed away not long after this performance, and he steadfastly refused to cash-in on his legacy right until the end.
Modern music from hip-hop to electronica to house owes a great deal to the pioneering psychedelic experiments of the modern jazz scene and their influence is often overlooked. This release should hopefully go some way to redressing the balance as well as entertaining and educating in equal measures.
Not just a historical document for the heads, Davis and his band ooze pure class from beginning to end.