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Miles Davis: Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series Vol. 5

Doug Collette By

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If ever a band of Miles Davis' deserved the high-intensity inspection/dissection represented by The Bootleg Series Vol. 5, it is his second great quintet. With that man with the horn as the great catalyst, the rapport between pianist Herbie Hancock, saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams is virtually unparalleled in the history of jazz, but to hear the machinations behind their creations here is almost as fascinating as the 'finished product' itself (liner notes rightly suggest use of headphones to hear all the spoken interludes).

One of the major revelations here is that, much more often than not, the working recordings lead to much shorter master takes, illustrations of the truism 'less is more.' The freedom of give and take, verbal as well as instrumental, between the five musicians (and often including producer Teo Macero), is completely unself-conscious, and fearless to boot: perhaps because there are no lack of ideas, there is no apprehension about cutting out parts and condensing longer performances to their essence.

Not surprisingly, one major exception to this working rule of thumb is Shorter's "Footprints." One of his most famous compositions and a regular part of the band's repertoire, unlike much of the material which would appear complete on Miles Smiles,(Columbia, 1967), Nefertiti (Columbia, 1968)and Water Babies (Columbia, 1976), the quintet offers mere sketches of the number: rather than allows itself the luxury of deep exploration of its melodic, harmonic and rhythmic possibilities—relegating that to the concert stage—Davis & co barely scratch the surface while in the studio. It's almost as if they're collectively aware there can be no definitive version.

Rather than the plethora of multiple takes of the same tunes as appear on The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions (Legacy 2003), the preponderance of studio chatter and instrumental experimentation as unreleased content may limit the attraction of Freedom Jazz Dance. Most appropriately, the title tune does benefit from the addenda as it's a cover of an Eddie Harris tune made popular in a much more accessible version at the time of theses sessions beginning in 1966. Otherwise the concept of The Bootleg Series Vol. 5 is a especially focused and rightly so: the work of this band in a live setting already covered in some detail by the inaugural entry in this archival series Live in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 (Legacy, 2011) and Live at the Plugged Nickel (Legacy, 1995)

Colorfully packaged in a three-CD digi-pak, a booklet with all the pertinent recording information, in consummate detail, accompanies Ashley Kahn's informative essay; the esteemed jazz scholar provides a similarly accurate timeline of the dates and times involved in these session, besides commentary from principals Carter and Shorter. And the author's own presentation communicates the eye-opening delight he himself experienced in hearing these recordings, a sensation most all other listeners will share as well, and which, judging from the camaraderie among these great musicians, has its source in the relationship between the five players themselves.

Track Listing: CD 1: Freedom Jazz Dance (Session Reel); Freedom Jazz Dance (Master Take); Circle (Session Reel); Circle (Take 5); Circle (Take 6); Dolores (Session Reel); Dolores (Master Take). CD 2: Orbits (Session Reel); Orbits (Master Take); Footprints (Session Reel); Footprints (Master Take); Gingerbread Boy (Session Reel); Gingerbread Boy (Master Take); Nefertiti (Session Reel); Nefertiti (Master Take). CD 3: Fall (Session Reel); Fall (Master Take); Water Babies (Session Reel); Water Babies (Master Take); Masqualero (Alt. Take 3); Country Son (Trio Rehearsal); Blues in F (My Ding); Play Us Your Eight (Miles Speaks.

Personnel: Miles Davis :trumpet; Wayne Shorter: tenor saxophone; Herbie Hancock: piano; Ron Carter: bass; and Tony Williams: drums.

Title: Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series Vol. 5 | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Legacy Recordings

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