Saturday, March 31, 2018

Miles Davis and John Coltrane - The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 (Legacy, 2018)

Saxophonist John Coltrane had already released his first masterpiece Giant Steps and was looking forward to putting together a band of his own to go out on the road. Trumpeter Miles Davis had employed Coltrane on and off since 1955 and was in a pinch, needing a saxophonist for a scheduled JATP tour of Europe in the early spring of 1960, gaining grudging acceptance from Coltrane. This was the band that made several classic Davis recordings, including the immortal Kind of Blue with a superb rhythm section including Paul Chambers on bass, Wynton Kelly on piano and Jimmy Cobb on drums. These recordings have been in the grey market and bootleg circles for years, but they have never sounded this good. The remastering cleans up the sound which were originally radio recordings, with two sets from Paris’s L’Olympia Theater on Monday, March 21; and two from the next night at Stockholm’s Konserthuset; and one from Copenhagen’s Tivolis Koncertsal three days later, on March 24. The music is enthralling, Davis is the leader and at the top of his game, but it is Coltrane whose lengthy, searching solos are the main event for many on these records, his solos leaving perplexed and divided audiences in his wake. Special attention should be given to the rhythm section, who is ready for anything, whether it is the short pithy solos of Davis or the long searching Coltrane features. They are there with crisp rhythmic accompaniment and confident soloing throughout the recordings. The concerts included follow much of Davis's usual repertoire from the period, "So What", "All Blues" and "Walkin'" are some of the highlights where Miles plays with the refined grace that was his hallmark. He discouraged his bands from rehearsing, instead wanting them to be fresh on the bandstand, taking chances and allowing the material to be reexamined every night. John Coltrane made the most of this, along with the freedom and latitude that Davis allowed him. looking at the source material from every conceivable angle from which is might be improvised upon and then building layer upon layer of relentless music. He's not out of control however, although he may be way out there on performances like "All Blues" from Stockholm, trying out every conceivable method of playing. He's like a scientist, experimenting and then refining the results and casting aside what doesn't belong. Although the audiences, particularly at the Paris concert are flummoxed by this approach, his quest was all consuming and genuine and this attitude would continue for the remainder of his all too brief life. This is a fascinating release and fans of historical mainstream jazz are well advised to pick it up. It shows two two of the most important figures in jazz history performing for the last time before departing for vastly different paths. The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 - amazon.com

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