Live at Montreux 1991
Eagle Rock Entertainment
This has been available before on CD, VHS and DVD but it’s re-released now for DVD once again and appears for the first time on Blu-Ray. It’s Miles Davis’ last appearance at Montreux, recorded just months before his death. He’d played Montreux since the early 1970s – but this, his final performance, had Miles doing something he didn’t do all that often: here he looked back.
The program is a tribute to the Gil Evans arrangements and orchestrations from earlier in Miles’ career. Gil Evans had passed away a few years before this concert and Miles, in poor health, fading, was teamed with the remaining members of the Gil Evans Orchestra with Quincy Jones standing out front to conduct the charts.
I owned this concert once before, on VHS. As a young Miles Davis fanatic I had to have it. Even though – lovely as the performances are, stately, respectful – it was incredibly boring to watch as a performance. I turned instead to the CD. And though that was preferable to watching the footage it just sent me back to the earlier recordings, to the original Gil Evans-arranged pieces.
There was something about revisiting this though – maybe it was watching it at 2am, a teething toddler suddenly calmed by the whisper-tone of the ailing Davis. Maybe it was the memories of floods of Sundays spent listening to all manner of versions of Gershwin highlights, of Miles standards such as Boplicity and Miles Ahead.
And I couldn’t take my eyes of Miles. So sick. So sad to watch him struggling, the best of the trumpeting performed by a young Wallace Rooney, Miles tracing around the cover-versions of his licks; out of breath but still looking his alien-cool best; so frail but somehow still bigger than the game. And defiant, of course, as he all but staggers towards his death.
I couldn’t recommend this to anyone as a DVD you’d likely watch more than once. Unless you want to focus in on the orchestra or conductor. But if you’re a fan of Miles Davis and you never saw this funereal waltz well, maybe, just maybe, there’s something in it for you.
And if your toddler is teething at 2am a bit of The Duke, My Ship and Blues For Pablo just might be the ticket while you wait for the somnabulance…