55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
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Format: Audio CD
(1973) What strikes me is how focused this performance is: you get the unique electronic textures characteristic of Davis' post-ON THE CORNER `70s music, but also a parade of solos (Davis, Dave Liebman, Pete Cosey, and James Mtume) that further overturn the already-inaccurate cliche that this period deemphasized individual expression in favor of a collective approach. After an aggressive first set (which provokes boos from the audience), Davis wins the crowd over with a more subtle second set. Miles' playing is probably the strongest I've heard him in the 1973-75 period (I also noticed that he seems to use the wah-wah pedal a bit more sparingly than usual, to good effect). IMO, this performance is so much better in all respects--including sound quality--than DARK MAGUS and IN CONCERT that there's no comparison. I'd place this with AGHARTA/PANGAEA as the best officially-released documents of this group in a live setting.
(1984 - 1986) A lot happened with Miles in the interim, but by 1984 Davis' trumpet-playing was back in prime shape. Furthermore, he had assembled a fine ensemble that has backed off from the previous decade's cutting edge, offering fiery, inspired playing in a somewhat more conventional yet still bold context, including always provocative solos by Davis and John Scofield. Additionally, the tunes performed show considerable variety, from aggressive funk/jazz to more subtle gems like PACIFIC EXPRESS. In 1985 he performs the YOU'RE UNDER ARREST album with a sense of daring and passion missing from that disc. The 1986 concert is a good set, but the bar is raised so high by the 1984-85 performances that it seems a bit less interesting in comparison. Davis' playing on both 1984 and the second 1985 set is remarkably strong. I hear talk of 1980s-era Davis being past his prime blah blah blah, but I don't recall any other musician in any genre playing with this consistent level of strength, invention, endurance, and relevance at Davis' age (late 50s at the time of these concerts).
(1988-1990) The core group lineup for Davis' final ensemble is set (Kenny Garrett, Ricky Wellman, Foley). With the extraordinary percussionist Marilyn Mazur on board, and the keyboardists Robert Irving III and Adam Holzman at their peak in giving the music rich, unique textures, 1988 is the best of the three concerts (very similar to the recent LIVE IN MUNICH DVD). 1989 does have some AMANDLA cuts added into the setlist, but for once the group doesn't seem to have much to add to the studio versions, except for HANNIBAL. In fact, there seems to be a bit of predictability setting in that fortunately is compensated by continued fine soloing by Davis (albeit not in the forefront on every tune as before), Garrett (or Rick Margitza in 1989), and Foley. To be fair, even these concerts push the envelope further than most of Miles' peers--if this is Davis' version of "smooth jazz" thankfully it has way too many rough edges (who else had a group nearly this distinctive and flexible?). Possibly the relative lack of fresh, challenging material is the culprit in keeping the 1989-90 dates from realizing their fullest potential (and the prime reason that they fall short of other Davis eras).
(1991) The performance with Quincy Jones of the Miles & Gil classics has already been issued: Davis plays well considering he hadn't touched this material in three decades. Although fresh accounts in the SO WHAT bio indicate Davis' health was declining, he nonetheless was sounding revitalized, particularly in the Summer 1991 concerts with his regular working group. I've already heard an outstanding performance from Hamburg, and the one issued here from Nice is just as invigorating. The occasional crowd-pleasing tactics of the prior two years is absent (e.g., the simply-there tunes, his call-and-response toying with the audience, etc.). Here Davis and his group just focuses on playing some dynamic music, and in the process even such well-worn material as HUMAN NATURE and TIME AFTER TIME are given new life. Sometimes one group member can make a difference: in 1988 it was Mazur, and in 1991 the presence of keyboardist Deron Johnson helps to push an already a fine group over the top. After hearing this concert Davis' death seems even more tragic: I hear tons of potential that sadly was prevented from being pursued when he passed shortly afterward.
The importance of the boxed set in understanding Davis' last decade cannot be overstated. Furthermore, Davis really seemed to be inspired by playing at Montreux: without exception his own playing is in top form, relative to other concerts performed surrounding these dates that I've heard. Certainly Davis didn't perform at this high level every time he walked on stage (I saw Davis in concert ten times between 1981-90 and his playing only reached these heights maybe 3-4 times), but that fact makes this box even more essential. I hesitate to recommend any 20-CD boxed set to non-collectors. Yet if you've been exposed to 1980s-vintage Miles (via records or concerts) and like what you've heard, I can't imagine you being disappointed with the music heard here. If you don't have the money to pay and/or the time to listen, the best alternatives are the DVDs LIVE IN MONTREAL (1985) and LIVE IN MUNICH (1988).
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
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Format: Audio CD
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.