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Perfect Way: The Miles Davis Anthology - The Warner Bros. Years

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Album Review

Somewhere around the turn of the 2000s, Rhino/Warner Bros. had plans to release The Last Word, a four-CD box anthologizing all of Miles Davis' output for the label, running from 1986's Tutu to his death in 1992 and the posthumous release of the hip-hop-influenced (and underrated) Doo-Bop. But legal disputes killed the box late in the game, after advances had already gone out, and it became the stuff of legend and lore. Now, Warners' European arm has put together an abridged version, with less than half the music, and while it still gives a good idea of what Davis was up to in his final years (and all the source albums are still in print, anyway), it's far from what it could have been. The first disc gathers tracks from the trumpeter's major Warner Bros. efforts: 1986's cybernetic Tutu and 1988's full-band funk effort, Amandla, appending one track from the Hot Spot movie soundtrack (where Davis was part of a simmering acoustic blues band alongside John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, and others), and a guest spot on pianist/vocalist Shirley Horn's You Won't Forget Me, as well as two previously unreleased studio tracks from an aborted, fun, band session. The second disc includes tracks from the soundtrack to the Australian movie Dingo (in which Davis also acted), a couple from Doo-Bop, a live performance from the Montreux Jazz Festival at which Davis and conductor Quincy Jones re-created the orchestral music Davis originally recorded with Gil Evans, and some mid-'80s live tracks. All this material was to have been part of The Last Word, along with much more — that box included the complete Tutu, Amandla, and Doo-Bop LPs, as well as the soundtrack Davis and Marcus Miller composed for the film Siesta. But as a bare-bones introduction to Miles Davis' final years, one that hopefully will inspire listeners to check out the full albums, this isn't bad.


Born: 26 May 1926 in Alton, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Throughout a professional career lasting 50 years, Miles Davis played the trumpet in a lyrical, introspective, and melodic style, often employing a stemless Harmon mute to make his sound more personal and intimate. But if his approach to his instrument was constant, his approach to jazz was dazzlingly protean. To examine his career is to examine the history of jazz from the mid-'40s to the early '90s, since he was in the thick of almost every important innovation and stylistic development in the...
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