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Miles Davis Quintet: Live in Europe 1967

November 19, 2011

I have been sitting on this one for a couple of months now.  Just making sure it was fully absorbed into my skin.  For Miles fans this is a wonderful find.  This is an incredible set of live recordings of Davis’ “Second Great Quintet.” at the height of their powers and near the end of their run – Miles was on the verge of a change to electronic-funk-rock-based jazz.  But this recording is modern hard bop tipping into free jazz at its finest.

The reason I sat on this was that I found the first listen challenging.   It was the free jazz element that held me back (or as my dear wife refers to this kind of music: noise).  But I stuck with it and with each listen I broke in a little further and the music’s secrets were revealed.  I can now listen to this with compete ease and comfort.  And what seemed wild and untamed now has a logic.  So like all the finer things, this is an acquired taste.

For live recordings this is very high quality sound.  The audience is unobtrusive.  At times the bass and piano are buried a bit far back. As an added bonus there is a DVD of concert footage.  It is great to see the band in their very hip suits looking ever so cool.

Although I am a huge Miles fan I have not always given him the respect he deserves as a technical trumpeter.  But these sets show how strong a player Miles could be.  He plays with a lot of enthusiasm and strength and I am grateful the mute has been for the most part left behind.  As for the rest of the band – there is a reason they are known as the Second Great Quintet.  Each player would go on to huge success and be considered a key player at their position for their generation.  Wayne Shorter (sax) is the other main soloist besides Miles.  Herbie Hancock mainly plays a supporting role – but don’t ignore him – that is the brilliance of Hancock – he is the greatest accompanist of his generation for my money.  Ron Carter’s bass gets a little lost in the mix, gut his playing is great.  Tony Williams drums are very prominent – so you get to hear a lot of him – wonderful light and airy cymbal work.

This music on the CDs come from 3 dates in Belgium, Denmark and France and the DVD has shows from Germany and Sweden.   All from a 10 day period.  Most of the songs are repeated at each show, which gives you a chance to see how inventive this group cold get with the repertoire.  This group had been together for 4 years at this point and their interplay is very strong.  They can play very free with each other – a conversation amongst very old friends.  Each with an independent voice and each bringing up a different topic. Experts have called the approach of this band “time, no changes.”  I take that to mean they all stay in rhythm but are free to go where they each want with the melody and chords.  There are points when the horn soloist and Hancock sound like they are playing different songs, but some how they miraculously make it work without sounding like cacophony.

The collection is subtitled “The Bootleg Series Vol. 1” – a nod to a similar approach that has been taken with Columbia label mate Bob Dylan.  It is amazing how much material must be in the vaults.  I have collected all the Columbia box sets which are crammed full of bonus material.  I look forward to being fleeced by Columbia on the multiple bootleg volumes to come.

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From → Music Reviews

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