Miles Davis Looking Back: 1991

Friday, 22 February 2013 12:01 AM Written by 

Just months before Miles Davis's death in September, 1991, he did something he'd refused to do for decades: returned to his musical roots, to his brilliant collaborations with arranger and close friend Gil Evans, first heard on the 1949 Birth Of the Cool album, then on such later masterpieces as Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess  at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland on July 8, 1991.  Eagle Rock Entertainment is re-releasing the concert on March 18 on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital formats.

For years, he resisted suggestions by anyone, fans, friends, music industry heavies or whatever, to return to anything in his past including the 1950s Quintet material he did with Paul Chambers, John Coltrane, Bill Evans and others. Discussing that in his 1988 autobiography, he was insistent on not looking back, suggesting he was proud of the material and realized fans appreciated it but told them to"buy the record."  

He took a different view when longtime friend Quincy Jones and the late Claude Nobs, founder and director of Montreux, conceived it as a Gil Evans tribute. Evans had died three years earlier. The original arrangements were reconstructed. A group of musicians dedicated to playing Evans' music were assembled, along with heavy hitters like drummer Grady Tate and saxophonists Benny Bailey and Kenny Garrett.

Miles was clearly fragile so young trumpet giant Wallace Roney, sat alongside him, ready to jump in.   At times it was painful to hear Miles reach for notes he would have once easily have grasped; at others, however, a certain nobility emerged as he found other paths to articulate.

"Boplicity," from Birth of The Cool.

"Summertime" from Porgy & Bess.

"Miles Ahead"- the album's title track

Interestingly, after Montreux, at concerts with his own band and guests, he revived other tunes including:

"All Blues" From Kind of Blue

Steve Grossman on tenor, Bill Evans on soprano (yes, there were two of them--the pianist died in 1980) and Chick Corea on electric piano. He hadn't played it in years.


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