Since Miles Davis’ passing in 1991, there have been a great deal of compilations and box sets released. The ultimate CD version has to be Sony’s 71-disc The Complete Columbia Collection. On the DVD front however, there has never been anything quite like the new Definitive Miles Davis At Montreux 1973-1991. This limited edition, ten-DVD collection of performances at the venerated festival is incredible, and an absolute must for every serious Miles fan.
The first disc is from his 1973 appearance, and captures Miles at a very interesting point in his ever-changing musical progression. After defining fusion with Bitches Brew in 1970, and A Tribute To Jack Johnson in 1971, Miles had moved into a very deep rhythmic arena. On The Corner was the title of the album, and was completely misunderstood by just about everyone for years.
One of the tunes that did not make the LP, but was later issued as part of the compilation Big Fun was “Ife.” Davis and his band work out a powerful 27-minute version of the tune here. It is a fascinating performance, full of surprises for everyone - including Miles himself at times. Nearly 90 minutes of interviews with such colleagues as Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Haden, and Stanley Clarke (among others) follow, bringing the DVD up to a good two hours worth of content.
As his fans know, the following years were difficult ones for Miles Davis. He was in a serious accident, and while recuperating from that he went into a heavy period of drug use. It would be 11 years before he returned to the Montreux stage.
On July 8, 1984 Miles played two full sets. A glance at the song list reveals two very similar shows, but with Miles Davis, no two appearances were ever the same. Most of the tracks hail from his recent albums Decoy and Star People. In both the afternoon and evening concerts, “Star People” is an early highlight. Miles also performs the Cyndi Lauper tune “Time After Time,” which would be a key track of the forthcoming You’re Under Arrest LP. His version of the pop song was controversial in some quarters, but such concerns had little affect on Miles. The ballad remained in his set for the rest of his life.
The Montreux Jazz Festival had a standing rule that the same artist would not be booked for consecutive years. This was thrown out the window in the case of Miles Davis. He not only graced the stage on July 14, 1985 - he would again play twice on the same day. He was enjoying a peak period in his resurgence, both live and in the studio. This year also saw the recording of two albums, You’re Under Arrest, and Aura. He and the band burned up the Montreux stage during both concerts that day as well.