Miles Davis

Live in France

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Here's a really cheap way to experience the full flavor of Miles Davis' live stage act in his last years. This two-CD set turns up in deep-discount warehouse stores for as little as $10. Unlike Live Around the World, which presents a polished front of carefully selected performances, this is basically the unedited show that Davis repeated ad infinitum during a period when he seemed content to follow trends rather than blaze new trails, preening in outlandish outfits in front of his young funk band. Here, the outbreaks of inspired trumpet playing that Davis was able to muster in flashes are set in context against acres of harsh, dreary lockstep synthesizer riffs and numbing, not-so-funky grooves that often dominated the shows. Yet, the set includes some important material that never got onto a commercial release, like a tough 16-minute fuzz-synth workout on "The Senate: Me and You" by Prince (whom Davis hung out and jammed with), and a cooking, voodoo-like vamp by Miles with the tantalizing title "Wayne's Tune." There are also superior performances of well-known material like "Tutu," a really nice, haunting (though uncredited) "In a Silent Way," and one of Davis' darkest renditions of "Time After Time." The band is a typical lineup for the time, with Kenny Garrett on alto sax and flute, Foley McCreary on guitar (McCreary's Hendrix-inspired playing gets the most solo time among the sidemen), Robert Irving, III, and Adam Holzman on keyboards, Darryl Jones on bass, Rudy Bird on percussion, and Ricky Wellman on drums. Recorded in Avignon, France in the summer of 1988, the sound is clear and accurate enough to convey the experience. This double-disc set may not present Davis' late-'80s music in the most glowing light, but, hey, this is the way it really was.

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