If you can afford this set, you absolutely will not be disappointed. It is brilliant, start to finish and postively worth the investment for the fascination, joy and intrigue that it inspires. Critics who found Miles difficult once he went electric missed the point. Critics of his eighties out put obviously only listened to the studio albums, argueably weak points in Miles' ouvre. But here in front of people in a venue that must have nurtured his daring intensity, Miles takes music in directions that are only now becoming the way all music is heading.
That's always the case with someone who thinks, hears, and creates differently than his time. Sometimes in a given location, prejudice suggests that you somehow were lucky or some such thing, that it wasn't your design. These recordings put the lie to that perniciousness. Miles knew where he was going most of the time, and when he didn't, he had the courage to leap. God Bless him for that. We should all embrace that ethic.
As to the matter at hand, the first 2 discs from 73 show just how organically his 70's output evolved. It is liberating to hear this music free of Teo Macero's cut and paste approach, valid from a certain perspective, but certainly not the experience I recall in seeing Miles perform back then. This music percolates and these musicians listen intensely to each other. They are going deep into the core of rhythm itself and the effect is intoxicating.
We skip 11 years, Miles has recovered his embosure, and from the first notes of disc 3 through disc 18, this is a man in categorically complete command of all of his powers, faculties, imagination. It's wrong to label certain epochs as I am about to do, but for the sake of artificial identity, the Scofield-Berg-Irving band was protean on a weak day, and of hurricane power when they cooked. They do nothing but cook throughout this collection. What occurred to me when I listened was how little the studio albums had to do with where this band was really going, and Berg in particular comes through as a far more integral element to the whole proceedings than I had ever imagined before. Sco burns, snaps, crackles and pops with a blues intensity (and Miles was ever and always rooted deep in the St Louis blues, which I suspect is why Marsalis and his ilk never got it), Irving lays out a landscape that makes the explorations exhilarating, and the rhythm sections were shear genius. Through it all, the Chief cuts the clearing away to make all this possible.
Again, forgive the too easy jump here, but moving forward to the Kenny Garrett epoch that represents the last quarter of this set, Miles is ever on the move and seems to have found in Garrett a collaborator as deeply in sync with him as Trane or Shorter. Add to this dialectic, the remarkable Foley and the bandmates of this time, and the tragedy of Miles' death is all the more heartbreaking. Their performances at Montreux had all the indications that Miles was on the cusp of breaking it open yet again, changing the course of music for the Twenty-First Century. Listening to all of these discs, it is obvious just how relevant they are to today, and more importantly what an advance they were in the context of their time.
Sure Prince was doing new things in Pop, but Mr Rodgers was nowhere near doing what Miles was with similar ingredients. Perhaps that's why whatever explorative recordings there are of their collaboration he has been reluctant to release. Miles was after something with the Rubber Band, but that will have to be another set. Here in the course of his live adventures, be it taunting Chaka Khan or reprising Gil Evans, Miles was restlessly poking, boxing, jabbing, seeking that perfect way to the next direction in music. TUTU, THE SENATE, WRINKLE are live wire leaps into the heart of polyrythmic, odd-metre, cross cultural rhythms, melodies and timbres. As Miles quipped in a German interview, "You ever hear an African send a message on the drums slowly?" Indeed.
By the time of the Evans tribute, Miles was failing and quite near his end. It is hard to tell how much of that particular concert Miles fully embraced. Looking back was not his, nor Evans' thing. But when you get to Disc 20 and the song "Time after Time", you'll find yourself choking back the emotion. This was his farewell, and looking ahead, as was his wont, he must have known it. It was a message sent slowly and with great passion. Time after time, Miles changed the course of music.
Claude Nobs states in his notes that the recordings are untouched masters, all absolutely raw. I'd pull out my own teeth to sound that raw! They outshine everything Miles ever did in the studio, and what warts there are all seamlessly blend with the pursuit in which he is engaged. Miles once said a note only sounds wrong by what comes after. There are no wrong notes by themselves. Well, given all that has come after since his passing, there's not a wrong note in this entire collection. Save your lunch money. This is required listening for any and all who believed in the Quixotic journey of the Man with the Horn.