Montreux fetes Miles Davis with "soundtrack" to his life

By Stephanie Nebehay

MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters Life!) - Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Marcus Miller paid tribute to their friend and mentor Miles Davis, performing a "songtrack to the life" of the late American trumpet player whose music electrified the world of jazz.

The two-hour concert, which stretched into the early hours of Thursday, was a highlight of the annual Montreux Jazz Festival, where Davis is still remembered for driving along Lake Geneva in a red Ferrari.

The jazz great, whose statue stands proudly in a park next to Miles Davis Hall, performed 10 times at Montreux, the last time just two months before his death at age 65 in 1991.

"It doesn't feel like 20 years, it feels like 4 or 5. Miles's music is everywhere. This is dedicated to the spirit of Miles Davis, the most beautiful thing he gave us," said Marcus Miller, the gifted bassist who directed the homage at a sold-out Stravinski Auditorium.

Miller said it was very difficult to hold a retrospective concert for an artist who never looked back, but that when he had the idea for a tribute to Davis this year he immediately decided to call Hancock and Shorter.

At the first rehearsal the three ended up not playing a single note, instead talking about Davis and what they might do to honor him properly.

"Wayne said 'what we don't want to do is play in the style in which it was originally done because we figured Miles would hate that. Let's make it like a soundtrack to Miles's life'," said Miller, wearing his trademark black hat.

"If there were a movie of Miles's life, perhaps this would be the score to that movie."

Hancock, Shorter and Miller all played with Davis, who had a keen eye for new African American talent. Sean Jones on trumpet and Sean Rickman on drums rounded out the quintet.

They opened with "Walkin," the title track of Davis's 1954 album, with Hancock alternating on piano and keyboards, and Shorter and Jones playing mournfully on their instruments.

"Someday My Prince Will Come," from the 1961 album recorded with John Coltrane, and "Tutu" were other crowd favorites, but some were disappointed not to hear the classic "Round Midnight."

After a standing ovation, Hancock strapped on a synthesizer keyboard for an encore of "Time After Time" and "So What."

"Marcus produced a great concert," said Claude Nobs, founder of the Swiss festival now in its 45th year.


Quincy Jones, the producer and former co-director of Montreux, hosted a second show billed as "A Night of Global Gumbo," bringing young talent to the famed Montreux stage.

Cuban jazz pianist Alfredo Fernandez, a 24-year-old who defected several years ago, played "El Guije" with his trio.

"He practices 14 hours a day, he's as serious as they come. His future is so bright it scorches my eyes," said Jones, who produced Michael Jackson's "Thriller," the best-selling album of all time.

Emily Bear, a 9-year-old piano prodigy from Illinois, joined Fernandez for "Four Hands," stretching across the keyboard to hit the notes. She also played her own "Bumble Boogie" medley.

"Do you believe that?" quipped Jones as the crowd cheered.

South Korea's M Plex Band and strong male vocalist Seung-Won Jeong teamed up with Patti Austin for her hit "Baby Come To Me."

Esperanza Spalding, the American bass player who won the Grammy for Best New Artist this year, Jordan's Diana Karazon and Canada's Nikki Yanofsky also performed solos.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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