Miles Davis is unquestionably one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. His unbridled creativity was matched by very few. Therefore, when an album emerges that captures his brilliance just ninety days before his death, it matters.
Merci Miles is a recording of one of the maestro’s last shows. Spectacularly set, in a Roman amphitheatre in the south of France, Davis headlined the legendary Jazz à Vienne festival and blew everyone away with an electrifying set. It helped that the band he had recruited were the very best at what they did.
On the setlist were two tracks that Davis co-composed with Prince – the blistering Penetration and the Gershwin-esque drama of Jailbait. There were two tracks from his recent (at the time) album, You’re Under Arrest (Michael Jackson’s Human Nature and Cindi Lauper’s Time After Time). Covers, sure, but Davis stamps his own brand all over them.
The stand out track is the sixteen minute long Hannibal. As I described in my Louder Than War review, Davis and alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett are like two gladiators, duelling it out in that amphitheatre. That moment, three and a half minutes in, when the tune really takes off is quite breathtaking.
One could argue over its inclusion on this list. It’s not, technically speaking, an album of this year. But it’s far too good – and important – to overlook.