It's little surprise that the recordings comprising Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2
were captured in the wake of the recording of the jazz icon's seminal album In A Silent Way
(Columbia, 1969) and prior to the release of the even more significant followup, Bitches Brew
(Columbia, 1970), in the spring of the following year.
Miles Davis never waited around for reaction to his groundbreaking music in any era of his career and at this juncture, he was clearly so inspired that he aligned a skeleton crew of the many musicians who had appeared (and were to appear) on those studio recordings to take them on the road. The honing of that music, here including "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" and "It's About That Time," is borne out of the burgeoning chemistry of those involved, leavened by the spontaneity of improvisation.
Writing an astute essay in the lavish booklet within this package, Josef Woodard is particularly perceptive in pointing out not just the significance of the chronology of these recordings but their sources, as well as the repertoire of which they are comprised. The quality of the audio is superb throughout (notwithstanding edits on the November 5th Stockholm set), while the crystal-clarity color video likewise arises from master recordings originally overseen by state-owned European radio and television, an abiding gesture of respect to the legacy of jazz.
Simultaneously forging new approaches for both composition and improvisation, this quintet continued with great regularity to touch upon standards ("I Fall in Love Too Easily" is a common inclusion), selections from the man with the horn's previous creative phases (his own "No Blues") as well as the provocative writing of saxophonist Wayne Shorter
("Masquelero," "Footprints"). Deliberate in his demonstration of the continuity of his career, it was almost as if Davis intended to render a subliminal statement about the natural evolution of his music, aimed specifically at skeptical purists.
The DVD of a performance from the Berlin Philharmonic can either set the stage for or reaffirm the impression from the three CDs. The musicians' stoic demeanor during the introductions continues into their set, a natural result of the concentration necessary to interact with such subtlety (and, it should be noted, without the benefit of high-tech stage monitoring). The blank countenances contrast with their dandy attiresee bassist Dave Holland
's black and white cowhide design vestbut more importantly belies the range of color in their playing of single uninterrupted sets.
As noted on Bitches Brew Live
(Legacy, 2011), this specific combo became known as the "lost" Quintet because Davis never took them into the studio, before Shorter left to join Joe Zawinul
in the formation of Weather Report
, and drummer Jack DeJohnette
departed to play a more open-ended, atmospheric music, the nurturing of which, in this group, credits keyboardist Chick Corea
and Shorter. Even more so than the previous archive title though, Live in Europe 1969
effectively renders that aforementioned tag obsolete.
Miles Davis: trumpet; Wayne Shorter; tenor and soprano saxophones; Chick Corea:
Fender Rhodes, piano; Dave Holland: bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums.