Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Miles Davis Quintet - Live in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 (Columbia/Legacy, 2011)

When I was younger, I was deeply involved in the hobby of tape-trading, the exchanging bootleged concerts through the medium of the legendary Maxell XL-90 cassette tape. One of my most prized possessions at the time was 45 minutes of a concert from Paris recorded on November 6, 1967 by the Miles Davis Quintet with Davis in trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Ron Carter on bass, Herbie Hancock on piano and Tony Williams on drums. The music was captivating, awe-inspiring and nearly extra-sensory in its execution (is it any wonder this group names on of their studio albums ESP?) After the success of "Bootleg Series" releases by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, Columbia/Legacy has turned its attention to the trove of well recorded radio broadcasts of the various Davis bands that have been in collectors circles for decades. Included in this package are three compact discs containing the entire legendary Paris concert as well as proceeding concerts from Copenhagen and Antwerp in addition to a DVD with video from the same tour filmed in Stockholm and Germany. The music itself is simply extraordinary and exhilarating, with the group playing a similar setlist each night, but with drastically different results. "Agitation," as you can expect is all about controlled aggression with the band coiling energy like a snake before releasing explosively. Davis in particular is fascinating to hear, laying out quite a bit and giving his bandmates a large degree of freedom before launching into punchy pointed commentary. Wayne Shorter's enigmatic "Footprints" is played repeatedly, but they way that Shorter caresses the haunting theme and then springboards into extraordinary improvisational flights is a wonder to behold. "No Blues" from the Copenhagen concert may be the finest example of the groups mission. Developing similar setlists concert after concert (much like the music recorded in 1965 on the Live at the Plugged Nickel boxed set) the band uses the themes to develop exploratory improvisational music that is never repeated, and always leads to a thrilling climax. The music moves in a suite like formation, with each improvisation and theme building into the next one in a flawless fashion. The music is hypnotic and flows like water over rock with Zen patience and passion. The DVD is recorded crisply for television gives keen insight into the how the band interacted in real time, cool and brilliant, they mix standards and Monk with originals and jazz standards. The liner notes are well written, and place the music and the band in historical context and include some fine photography. This is a really extraordinary package by one of the finest working bands jazz has ever produced. The music developed on this tour and the bands studio recordings continues to resonate and provide inspiration today. One can only hope that Columbia/Legacy can keep this series going. There are several radio recordings of the so-called "lost quintet" from 1969 floating around out there, and they would make a wonderful Volume 2. LIVE in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 - amazon.com

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