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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Live at Montreux: Highlights

Eagle Vision EREDV 883



1. Ife
2. Speak: That's What Happened
3. Code M D
4. Pacific Express
5. Jean-Pierre
6. Heavy Metal Prelude
7. Jo Jo
8. Hannibal
9. The Pan Piper
10. Solea


Regular readers of MusicWeb International will know that I don't share the apparently widespread view that Miles Davis was a genius or even some sort of god. He was an erratic trumpeter who made some good recordings as well as many bad ones - and this DVD is evidence of some of the bad ones. It consists of extracts from concerts filmed at the Montreux Jazz Festival between 1973 and 1991.

One striking thing is that, even over such a long period and despite Miles's reputation as an innovator, the music changed remarkably little. Most tracks are mid-tempo outings, with Miles playing fragmentary ideas over a jazz-fusion beat decorated with busy Latin percussion. As in the rest of his career, Miles owed much of his success to the musicians he played with - from Charlie Parker via Bill Evans, John Coltrane and Gil Evans to Kenny Garrett and Dave Sanborn (who both appear on this DVD).

In many of the tracks, it is difficult to discern a melody, although Jean-Pierre has hints of a tune, marred by Miles's numerous discords. The piece is saved by a tuneful solo from alto-saxist Dave Sanborn. Speak: That's What Happened is brightened by fine solos from saxist Bob Berg and guitarist John Scofield. Heavy Metal Prelude is notable for Marilyn Mazur's rousing percussion.

The last two tracks come from Davis's final Montreux concert, where he revisited some old Gil Evans arrangements, backed by a large orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones. Miles was obviously ailing, and these can't be said to be his greatest performances..

In a bonus interview, Carlos Santana (a huge Miles Davis fan) called the trumpeter "the supreme divine rascal", adding "He's the only one who could get away with what he got away with". This DVD underlines my feeling that Miles somehow persuaded many people that he was a genius, despite the failings so evident on this DVD.

Tony Augarde

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