The Complete Miles Davis at Montreux: 1973-1991

After a single, fiery visit in 1973 (and his temporary retirement), Miles Davis didn't visit the Montreux Jazz Festival for another decade. Once he did return, though, Montreux became an almost yearly

After a single, fiery visit in 1973 (and his temporary retirement), Miles Davis didn't visit the Montreux Jazz Festival for another decade. Once he did return, though, Montreux became an almost yearly event for the legendary trumpeter until the year of his death, 1991. And all of these shows were recorded. This massive 20-disc boxed set—produced by the festival's Montreux Sounds label and released via Columba/Legacy in North America and by Warner Music in Europe and Japan—collects these performances for an extravagant tribute. While not up to the usual Legacy standard of illustration or, especially, annotation, this set does offer an unprecedented picture of Davis doggedly in pursuit

of the onstage muse even in his last years. Except for the gala 1991 tribute concert conducted by Quincy Jones, all of the material is previously unreleased; whether all of this music stands up to repeated listening, though, is highly arguable. In Europe, Warner preceded the complete boxed set with a single-disc highlights compilation; rather uncharacteristically, Legacy is not replicating this consumer-friendly (if oddly programmed) item for the U.S. market. The full Montreux collection is a massive one, with much repetition of repertoire from the various multi-show stands in the '80s. There are, for instance, nine versions of "Time After Time" (and, despite Davis' minimalist wizardry, one probably never needs to hear more than a couple of takes on the Cyndi Lauper hit). Also, it's sad to say, aside from the provocative acid-rock band of 1973 and the mid-'80s shows featuring high-brow funk guitarist John Scofield, much of the material has dated severely. Granted, the keyboard-heavy latter-day bands sounded edgy for the time—and saxophonist Kenny Garrett always sounds great—but the years have

not treated the synthesizer tones and overall electro-funk aesthetic very kindly, including that of a borrowed Prince tune, "Movie Star." It's the eight discs featuring Davis in league with Scofield that make the traversal worth it, particularly for Scofield's witty, gritty "What It Is" and several subtly different renditions of "Star People" (the title track of an under-appreciated 1983 Davis studio set that Legacy should reissue). Blowing a long lover's lament on this steamy blues, Davis shows that he remained the ultimate snake-charmer to the very end.—BB