Miles Davis Quintet
Live In Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1
In the Fall of 1967, the locations were as varied as Antwerp, Belgium; Copenhagen Denmark; Stockholm, Sweden; Kalrsruhe, Germany; and Paris, France—but in each country the one constant was quintessential Miles Davis, as the legendary trumpeter wielded his genius as precisely as a diamond cutter uses his tools. There are three brilliant CDs of previously unreleased or previously only bootlegged material, and a gem of a DVD, in Columbia Legacy’s impressive package, Live in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol.1. The beauty is that, unlike many box sets where an overwhelming all-encompassing attitude prevails as to the content selection process, Live in Europe is a specifically defined moment-in-Miles Davis-time, with similar set lists from recording to recording. The opportunity is there to, of course, enjoy and marvel, but also to study one of the most creative musical minds in the history of recorded sound, and one of his most interesting group configurations.
Presented here is Davis’ “second great Quintet,” featuring Herbie Hancock (piano), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Ron Carter (bass) and a young Tony Williams (drums), on George Wein’s Newport Jazz Festival in Europe tour. The frantic trumpet runs of “Agitation” are a fitting concert opener in Belgium, but astute listeners will delight in mining the variations, or perhaps be assured by any similarities, in the same piece at the Denmark show. The same goes for “’Round Midnight,” or “No Blues,” or “The Theme,” from the concert in France to the performance in Belgium. There are no breaks between songs. In 1967 Davis instituted the format of playing sets as a continuous jam. It is very much like a filmmaker utilizing one continuous shot. The effect is progressive and often dream-like.
The DVD is extraordinary with camera angles and shots that are stunning. Wayne Shorter is seen out of focus in the background simply observing Davis playing in the foreground. Davis is captured at the front of the stage and is seemingly dwarfed by Hancock’s piano. At one point a nonchalant Davis relinquishes the set to another musician and casually walks away.
I believe Miles Davis intuitively played music simply for the joy of interacting with other artists, and most importantly for himself. In 1967, and always, there just happened to be a throng of discerning, loyal and respectful fans listening.
—Ellen Geisel (Ballston Lake, NY)
[Ed: The track below, “Gingerbread Boy,” was premiered on the Miles Davis Facebook page last week.]