in Legacy's Bootleg Series
features Miles Davis' "great lost band" with saxophonist Wayne Shorter
, keyboardist Chick Corea
, bassist Dave Holland
and drummer Jack DeJohnette
, recorded in July and November 1969. This band, sometimes called Davis' "third great quintet," never recorded as a standalone ensemble, although it served as the core of the larger group that consolidated around the trumpeter's landmark Bitches Brew
sessions in August '69.
While preparing Miles: The Autobiography
, Davis told biographer Quincy Troupe: "After we finished In a Silent Way
, I took the band out on the road: Wayne, Dave, Chick and Jack DeJohnette were now my working band. Man, I wish this band had been recorded live because it was really a bad motherfucker. I think Chick Corea and a few other people recorded some of our performances live, but Columbia missed out on the whole fucking thing."Live in Europe 1969
presents three CDs of live recordingstwo shows from the Antibes (France) Jazz Festival in July plus a November performance in Stockholm (Sweden)and a color DVD of a November performance in Berlin (Germany). These performances were bookended by the releases of the studio albums In a Silent Way
(released in July '69) and Bitches Brew
(April 1970). In fact, "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" and "Spanish Key" were performed onstage in France (in July) before their studio versions were recorded for Bitches Brew
Although Davis is undeniably the star, Corea and Holland prove indispensable in this music. Corea's change from acoustic to electric piano irreversibly altered the trajectory of Davis' sound; a source of constant rhythmic and harmonic motion, Holland's bass seems to never stand still and yet its solid foundation never seems to move, either. Interviewed for these liner notes, Holland can now explain: "It's not just about one musician having a single idea and having everybody do it, pulling the strings. It's about taking a group and thinking about what its strengths are and what its direction and tendencies are, and using that. You don't try to change the course of the river. You just try and go with the flow of it and use that flow in a way that will carry the music along."
Holland and DeJohnette kick off "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down," which appears on both Antibes sets, with a monstrous downbeat that wobbles and groans with deep blue funk, and the instrumental vamp dives into an even deeper groove when Corea's electric piano chimes in. Davis' style sounds equidistant between jazz and rock as he spits and splatters flurries of color. In Stockholm, DeJohnette rustles his drums in the acoustic jungle of "Bitches Brew" behind Davis, whose sharp trumpet notes float like ghosts as they duel with the drummer's swirling rhythms, a remarkable document of Davis' style at the time.
Shorter's growing impact on the band's repertoire is evident from the frequent appearance of his polar opposites "Masqualero" and "Sanctuary." Both versions of "Masqualero" sound like they were shot from cannons, with Davis and the other musicians circling 'round DeJohnette's rippling thunder before careening into separate but parallel directions. "Sanctuary" closes both Paris shows as well as the Berlin DVD with Shorter and Davis floating in harmony and then pulling Corea and the rhythm section into their swirling sound cloud, a mellowing that somehow lays the genuine ferocity of this music to rest.
At this juncture, Davis had not left most of his musical past behindyetso these set lists included other significant mileposts such as the ironic blues jaunt "No Blues" (first captured Live at the Blackhawk
in 1961), where he starts blowing in the pocket and then blows your pants clean off, and "I Fall in Love Too Easily," a shimmering duet with Corea. "'Round Midnight," from its perch as a "bebop classic," nearly sounds anachronistic. Even so, few trumpet players have wrung more emotion or meaning from this melody.
Over the past decade, hearing
Davis perform during the 1960s has become commonplace but seeing him
perform remains a relative thrill. Even now, it still seems incredible to be watching Miles Davis play a mostly acoustic version of the title track to one of the most notorious electric jazz albums in recording history, "Bitches Brew," just as that album was about to be released. Davis paints this electric portrait with blurs of blue sound, stretching and then snapping back against the band's elastic yet relentless rhythms, singing and screaming a new language for the blues. "It's About That Time," less funky and more abstract, begins as a flickering two-beat pulse that emerges from its embers.
Full of emptiness, warmth packed in ice, "I Fall in Love Too Easily," again a duet with Corea's electric piano, presents one more stunning reminder of Davis' historic, time-stopping ballad expertise.
Josef Woodard's liner notes nicely summarize this entire package: "These important 'field recordings,' from a mysterious past and unfolding future, take us to a place and time between the cracks of the Miles Davis story as it is commonly understood. For that alone, never mind the rattling, exploratory poetry of this band's sound, this is a significant cultural document for the ears and ages, not just the archives."