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A Beautiful Farewell,
This review is from: Miles & Quincy Live At Montreux (International Release) (Audio CD)
They lined up trumpeter Wallace Roney, in case Miles wasn’t well enough or chops-wise fit enough to see this gig through. This was both a statement of Miles’s slightly fragile health and Roney’s rising star status. They needn’t have bothered. Miles played almost the whole technically demanding show and played it superbly as this CD testifies.
Miles Davis was an artist who never looked back and whose continual musical questing changed the conception of jazz five times over, if not more. So what persuaded him to play a show that was in effect a greatest hits package from one of his most popular periods – the fertile late 1950s when teamed with the mercurial Gil Evans and produced three classic orchestral albums? For that we have to thank Quincy Jones, a man as hip as Miles and cut from the same mould; a trumpeter with a deep respect for tradition but determined to look ahead.
Jones working with working with effervescent promoter Claude Nobs persuaded Miles to front an enormous jazz orchestra to recreate Gil Evans’ finely wrought charts for Sketches of Spain, Porgy and Bess and Miles Ahead which had so delighted so many in the 1950s. Evans, described by Sting as being like one of those mystical elders from Star Wars, died in 1988. He always complained that he needed an extra rehearsal before going into the studio to record the orchestral works. The Montreux Concert didn’t stint on time or quality. Supporting Davis were the massed ranks of the Gil Evans Orchestra (led by his son, Miles), The George Gruntz Concert Band and additional players to double the woodwind section – forty seven musicians in all. The set featured not just some of the best-loved pieces from the orchestral albums such My Ship, Summertime and Solea. But it started with the Birth of the Cool classic Boplicity written for Miles by Gil Evans and first recorded in 1949 and also John Carisi’s Springsville from that era.
“This stuff’s gonna be expensive”, said Miles to Claude Nobs when they discussed the concept in New York. “Why?” said Nobs, “The cost of the band can’t be that much.”, “It ain’t that, man,” said Miles, “It’s just that this shit is hard to play.” Hard and poignant. The concert, performed at The Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in July 1991, was a triumph as this CD only too clearly demonstrates. But less than four months later, after what was probably the first and only time he had publicly looked back on his music, Miles Davis died. It almost seems as if, with customary foresight, Miles Davis had planned his own farewell.