For those of you who have never heard of him, Davis was born Miles Dewey Davis on the 25th of May 1926 and grew up in a middle class black neighbourhood in St. Louis. The young Miles liked listening to music and by the age of 12 had started trumpet lessons. By 17 he was playing with Eric Randle's Blue Devils and it was during this time he saw and was allowed to play with Billy Eckstine's Big Band which at the time featured Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.
Davis graduated high school and left St. Louis in 1944 to attend the Institute of Musical Art in New York. It was here that he that he again met and played with Charlie Parker learning as much as he could from the master of the bebop sound. By 1945 Miles had quit school to become a full-time performer, at first as a sideman in a number of bands, before forming his own 9 piece outfit in 1948. This band featured arrangements by Gil Evans and was so popular that it attracted the attention of Capitol Records who offered Davis a recording deal. The sound of this band was different to that of the fast and flashy bebop sound of the time. It was slower and more relaxed. It took Capital some time to release the album but the sound that Miles created influenced many of the other members of his band and is believed to have led to the development of the Cool Jazz sound. When Capitol finally released the album in 1957 it was titled "Birth Of The Cool". This is the first example of Miles as the innovator, the performer who was always looking for something new.
Davis continued to play and record but his career was slowed during the early fifties with a heroin addiction that was not kicked until the middle fifties. Now clear of his drug problem, his creative drive returned and he was able to get a record deal with Columbia. His next key album was titled "Miles Ahead" which developed and extended the Cool Jazz concept. This album was later awarded an honorary Grammy Award for music released before the awards concept started in 1959.
His next landmark album, titled "Kind Of Blue", was released in 1959 to great success. It reached sales of 2 million which was huge for a Jazz album and again forged a new sound in modern jazz. Several successful albums followed throughout the 60's with Miles playing with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Victor Feldman, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter and Chick Corea.
Rock music was dominant throughout this period and it made use of electronic instruments. Davis and his band also began to use these instruments as he again experimented with a new sound. His next album "In A Silent Way" included players such as Chick Corea, Dave Holland and a young guitarist named John McLaughlin. It was popular while still staying within the jazz framework. "Bitches Brew" was released next and it introduced the world to Jazz Rock as well as earning Miles his first gold album and another Grammy award.
A car accident, ill health and a hip replacement all contributed to his slow down and eventual retirement from performing for most of the seventies. He returned to performing in 1980 and again began to tour and record. During this period his music won him 3 more Grammy awards and returned him to the music charts. He died in September 1991 from pneumonia, respiratory failure and a stroke.
This disc features Miles and his band performing at the Paris Jazz Festival in 1989. The following tracks are included in this performance:
1. Human Nature
4. Don't Stop Me Now
8. New Blues
9. Mr Pastorius
Despite being about 62 years old at the time this concert was recorded, Davis was still playing well and while his solos were shorter than one might like, they were still sharp and clear. His band are all talented and play well together all of which makes this an enjoyable concert. I do however, feel that it is my responsibility to warn you that while Miles Davis was a musical genius as well as a good painter, he had really dodgy fashion sense. Some of the members of his band appear to be suffering from this problem as well. Oh the pain, the pain! The fashion of the 1980's was terrible and the worst of it is on display here!
The title of each track is displayed on the screen as it begins and interview footage with Miles Davis is inserted between many of the tracks. In these interviews Miles talks about the media, art, his sound, South Africa, melody, friends, posterity and fame. He has a scratchy, husky sort of voice that is a times a little soft and so some concentration is required to hear everything he says.
Like the Lou Rawls disc I reviewed recently, this concert was filmed using broadcast video equipment and this hurts the clarity of the transfer. This full frame presentation is lacking in detail in mid to long shots where things are down right unclear. Closer shots reveal a better level of detail although things like the brand name of guitars remain unclear. Along with the lack of detail comes some video noise and pixelization in the background. There is also some minor moiré effect on the jacket warn by Miles Davis and some minor aliasing can also be seen on the edges of the stage and on some of the instruments.
The colour saturation of this transfer is quite high with strong reds, purples and blues saturating the stage. This, in concert with the low light levels of the venue cause a significant amount of smearing any time a strong light source enters the frame. I should point out however that is a problem with the source material and not the transfer.
Certain shots are also effected by fine diagonal lines of interference. Again not a problem with the transfer rather a problem that occurred during filming.
Overall this is an OK transfer that is just good enough to allow you to sit back and enjoy the performance.