- 14 Mar 19
Legendary producer, musician and composer Quincy Jones turns 86 today. To mark the occasion, we're revisiting P.J. Galligan's 1993 review of his classic collaborative album with Miles Davis, Live at Montreux.
MILES DAVIS & QUINCY JONES: Live at Montreux (Warner Bros.)
Recorded a few weeks before Miles' death in 1991, with a 50-piece orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones and following the original Gil Evans arrangements, this was an occasion as momentous for lovers of music as it was unique for Miles, a Picasso of jazz who made a virtue of never looking back.
"We have to move on," was his creed and his answer to those fans unable to follow him through four or five phases through which he brought jazz in 45 years as a musical path-finder. But here in his own twilight he looks back to the supple ghost of Evans, his friend and co-creator of those landmark albums Birth of The Cool ('49), Miles Ahead ('57), Porgy And Bess ('58) and Sketches Of Spain ('60).
While the orchestral backgrounds of Charlie Parker's late work survive as palid decorations, in Gil Evans' concerto settings for Miles' soloing you will find no trace of a cliche. Even after decades, the originality of the instrumental combinations discovered by Evans (for example, the first jazz inclusion of tuba and French horn in lieu of tenor sax) remains fresh and vital and there's a surprise and satisfaction at every turn. While on the recorded originals, Evans (as Ian Carr once pointed out) was balancing in the studio instrumental combinations which were not self-balancing acoustically, here the live ambience and the reinforcing of the Evans Orchestra add a festive breadth to the Canadian's writing.
Much has been written about the supreme expression of sadness and loss in Miles' playing. These scorings offer a richness of company to that loneliest of voices, the incessantly shifting textures drawing momentum from the warmth of his tone, while setting off the ever-present note of wistfulness (even more pronounced here on open and muted trumpet rather than the brighter flugelhorn of the original recordings.)
On 'Boplicity', from their first collaboration, there's a rare aura of relaxation despite the care and precision that went into it. 'Springsville', in particular, from Miles Ahead radiates muscular high-spirits. (Miles told of how Gil once phoned him at 3am and said, "If you're ever depressed, Miles, listen to 'Springsville'.") Then there's the humour of 'The Duke'; the sadness of Kurt Weill's 'My Ship'; and the superb 'Solea', taken slower than originally, the flamenco lament meeting the cry of the blues.
From their reconstruction of Gershwin's Porgy And Bess came the funereal dirge 'Gone, Gone, Gone', that most peculiar delicate march, 'Here Come De Honey Man' and 'Summertime', featuring a solo by the young, superb Kenny Garrett, Miles' almost constant sax foil since '87.
Picture this: September 20, 1970 - Gil and Miles in New York await a third musician to begin a new collaboration - only to hear that Jimi Hendrix has died in London. Gil himself died in '88. Their creations live on and inspire to this day. This album affirms life itself.