Miles Davis

Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue [DVD]

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AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz

Although it is the centerpiece of this 73-minute (minus DVD extras) documentary, Miles Davis' entire August 23, 1970, 38-minute set at the historic Isle of Wight Festival is just the cherry on the pie of a magnificent and important documentary chronicling Davis' electric transformation. Interviews conducted in 2003 with the entire band on that date (saxist Gary Bartz, keyboardists Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea, bassist Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette, percussionist Airto Moreira and interestingly, no guitarist) segue gracefully with clips of their solos from the show as they articulate on what they brought to the band and most importantly, Miles' typically mysterious process of working. Other interviews with critics, producers and musicians who were influenced by, played with or knew Miles such as Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock and Joni Mitchell (who also performed at the festival) are just as enlightening. More than simply edited discussions of the actual show though, the featurette probes the daring and radical nature of Miles' shift to an electric funk/rock format and how he was initially spurned by the same critics who used to laud him. The performance itself is remixed into 5.1 surround sound format and sounds splendid, especially considering the age of the tapes and the rather primitive recording equipment used at the time. Although parts of it have been released before, this is the first time the unedited, single untitled piece (which, when was asked what it was named, Miles said "call it anything") has been available. The show was a landmark event, not just musically, but because it signaled the crossover and acceptance of Davis' "new" electric sound to a young, predominantly white crowd. That audience had responded to 1970's Bitches Brew record by making it the biggest selling jazz album in history. Musically, the free-form format is jarring, experimental, funky and, above all, challenging. The documentary, directed and compiled by Murray Lerner, is a lean and fascinating piece that flows beautifully as the musicians wax eloquently on the subject of Miles and music in general. Additional interviews account for almost an extra hour of playing time. They are just as riveting as those in the film and the concert itself. This is spellbinding viewing for any musician, whether or not they are a Miles Davis fan, and a vital visual experience for every viewer, even if they are unfamiliar with Davis' music or career.

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