Eagle Rock Keeps Rolling With Miles Davis Live At Montreux 1991

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Eagle Rock Entertainment proved throughout 2012 why it is one of the leaders in live recordings.  There was not one bad recording from this company throughout the year.  Now with the start of a new year, Eagle Rock has picked right back up where it left off.  It started the year in big fashion with the release of Deep Purple Live in Paris 1975.  Now only a couple months later, Eagle Rock has released yet another top notch release in the form of Miles Davis Live at Montreux 1991.

Miles Davis’ performance at Montreux in 1991 was not the first visit that the legendary trumpet player had made to the equally legendary music festival.  It would though, be his last.  Only months after this performance, Davis sadly passed away.  Two years ago, Davis’ complete performances were culled for a complete box set also released by Eagle Rock Entertainment.  While two years may not seem like that much time, it actually is.  It is very easy for just such a box set to go out of print in that time.  As a result of that possibility, audiences now get to re-live one of the most iconic of Davis’ performances at Montreux on DVD and Blu-ray.  Considering that this concert has already been released as part of a larger box set, one is left to question what makes this single disc performance worth one’s time.  The answer is simple.  Over two decades have passed since this concert was originally recorded.  The footage recorded for that show has stood the test of time quite well.  Both the video and audio are outstanding.  And the set list chosen for the performance is just as impressive.  Together, all three make this a performance that any Miles Davis aficionado will enjoy.

This final performance by Miles Davis at the Montreux Jazz Festival featured not just Miles but also the Gil Evans Orchestra and another legend in his own right, Quincy Jones.  The control that the entire group has throughout each song really comes through so expertly thanks to the audio mixing done to give new birth to this performance.  And even at twenty-plus years old, the footage looks extraordinary, as if it hadn’t aged a day.  That is a tribute to those who worked so painstakingly to transfer the video from VHS to DVD and now Blu-ray.  While it may not have been entirely intended, one of the most interesting moments in this performance, speaking of footage, comes as Davis and company perform ‘Blues for Pablo.’  The way that the light trails off of Davis’ trumpet as he plays makes for such an incredible experience.  It makes the trumpet look almost as if it’s smoking.  And as slow as this song is, it simply makes for an incredible added element to the song.  Given, the way the light reflects and moves with Davis and his instrument was not an intended effect.  That was just the effect of the video recording equipment at the time.  But the mood of the song makes it such a fitting effect.  It adds a whole extra level to the song that can’t really be put into words.  Of course, it is just one of so many great numbers in this set.  Audiences that know Davis’ body of work will also enjoy the equally smooth ‘Summertime.’

‘Summertime’ is more up-tempo in this performance.  But it still doesn’t lose its originally bluesy feel.  Again this exemplifies the talent and professionalism of Davis, Jones, and the Gil Evans Orchestra.  It still stands out as another of the performance’s best numbers.  And it’s but one of so many that audiences will enjoy.

As if the numbers in this set list aren’t enough for viewers, audiences are also treated to an extra bonus as the now late founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival, Claude Nobs, and others get their chance to share their memories of Miles and his influence on themselves and the music world as a whole.  Audiences will laugh at Nobs’ story of how he and Davis first met and what some of Davis’ first words to Nobs were.  Also sharing in the memories are Stanley Clarke, Jean Luc Ponty, and Al Di Meola.  For those who might not know, this trio of gentlemen played a big role through the years in bringing Miles Davis’ works to the masses, re-mastering them for the numerous albums that have been re-issued to CD.  Their stories are, much like those of Nobs, both entertaining and very deep in so many ways.  And they, like the other individuals interviewed for this feature, offer so much incredible insight into who Miles Davis was, and his importance to the world of music as a whole.   They are truly a bonus and a worthwhile one to what is just one more piece to this history of one of the music industry’s most important figures.  They work with the main performance feature to make this release one that any Miles Davis aficionado will want to add to their own home library.  Miles Davis Live at Montreux 1991 is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via the Eagle Rock Entertainment website at http://www.eagle-rock.com.

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Return to Forever have returned in a big way on new live release

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records

Return to Forever has returned.  And it has returned in a huge way.  The band released its brand new live set, “The Mothership Returns” this past Tuesday, June 19th.  Being that it’s been nearly forty years since the band released its last full-length studio album, this new live release is an excellent “return” for this jazz/fusion/rock band.  It’s an equally impressive introduction to the legendary act for fans who might be new to RTF’s music.

Jazz/fusion, jazz/rock, jazz.  Call it what you will.  But one thing that can be said of Return to Forever on its new live release, “The Mothership Returns”, is that it shows that in the nearly four decades since the release of RTF’s last release, this band hasn’t lost even the slightest bit of steam.  The double disc audio portion of the set covers some of the band’s biggest hits including:  ‘School Days’, ‘Spain’, and Medieval Overture’ just to name a few.  This incarnation of RTF isn’t the original lineup.  But even with a new lineup, the band is still as strong as ever.  Drummer Lenny White’s work behind the kit is incredible to say the least.  He keeps perfect time all while crafting some of the most creative music of any drummer out there.  And founder/keyboardist Chick Corea continues to prove why he is one of the top musicians in his category, too.  Alongside Stanley Clarke (Bass), Jean-Luc Ponty (violin), and Frank Gamble (guitars), the quintet’s performance makes for a wonderful experience for any lover of jazz.

The audio portion of “The Mothership Returns” is impressive in itself.  But it’s the addition of the bonus dvd that makes this release that much more enjoyable.  The documentary, “Return to Forever:  Inside The Music” is a bonus that makes the whole epxerience that much more enjoyable.  The documentary offers insight into how the songs on the live show came to life.  There’s even an extra discussion on the song, ‘Dayride.’  Bassist Stanley Clarke discusses how he came up with the song.  He notes in the band interviews that it started coming to life when he was watching the Grammys one night.  Mel Torme was awarding a Grammy to Chick Corea, and mispronounced Chick’s last name.  Clarke laughs about how Torme had to be corrected about the pronunciation of Chick’s name.  That’s just one of many more memorable anecdotes shared by the band throughout the interviews.

The bonus documentary dvd included in “The Mothership Returns” is loaded with lots of memorable anecdotes that audiences will love to listen to again and again.  They aren’t all that make the bonus documentary the great extra that it is.  As the band talks about how the songs on this show came to life, each one shares with audiences what the other band memers bring to the table.  Not one of the band members has anything bad to say about the other.  Drummer Lenny White even jokes with bandmate Stanley Clarke about how Clarke had told him that he [Clarke] swore he would not be playing ‘School Days’ at fifty years old.  that obviously didn’t work out too well for Clarke.  That camaraderie shows through to the show, too.  The chemistry between every one of the band members is evident in their playing during both the audio and video portions of the show.  It’s part of what gives the show the energy that it has.

The video portion of the set is another extra that makes the bonus dvd a welcome addition to “The Mothership Returns.”  As the band discusses the songs featured on the audio portion of the set, audiences get to see performances of those songs from the Montreux Jazz Festival.  One of the songs discussed that’s not included in the double disc audio portion of the set is ‘Dayride.’ As noted earlier, there is a discussion of this on the bonus dvd. Fans who pick up “The Mothership Returns” will get to not only hear the discussion on this one, but see it performed at length, too, thanks to that inclusion. 

The entire “Inside The Music” documentary clocks in at just over an hour.  In that time, the documentary alone shines as the cornerstone of the bonus dvd.  From the insight into the band’s music to the laugh filled anecdotes to the extra bonus content, the bonus dvd helps to bring the entire package completely together.  Together with the double disc performance by this newest incarnation, RTF has proven that even after nearly forty years the band is still a leader not just in the world of jazz, but in music in general.

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