Miles & Quincy: Live at Montreux | EW.com

Music

He finally looked back. Abandoning a lifelong obsession with newness and youth, Miles Davis agreed in 1991 to perform the historic mid-career masterpieces he had recorded with arranger Gil Evans some 30 years earlier. Self-fulfillingly, perhaps, his old fears were realized. When he turned around at last, there was someone catching up to him: the angel of death.

Recorded in Switzerland just a few weeks before he was hospitalized for the last time, Miles & Quincy: Live at Montreux is simply the most exquisite music of tragedy this side of a New Orleans funeral. Don’t be mistaken though: This ain’t no party. Nor is it a career-summing work of miraculous late-life virtuosity. It’s something even rarer: an almost unbearably honest musical expression, without apology or shame, of weakness, age, and pain.

His mercurial tone reduced to a fragile moan, Miles drifts in and out of Evan’s ephemeral orchestral arrangements (including ”Miles Ahead,” ”Blues for Pablo,” and ”Summertime,” all conducted by Quincy Jones), as his spirit and powers dictate. On the trickier passages, backup trumpeter Wallace Roney takes over; for stretches, Miles just sits out. Strangely, in the end, this is still the same old Miles Davis: Defiant even in reflection, he’s saying Look, motherf—ers, I’m a tired old man. So what? A