Thursday, February 7, 2013

Miles Davis Quintet Bootleg Series Vol. 2

Miles Davis Quintet: Live in Europe 1969 (The Bootleg Series Vol. 2).  This box set is one of the most valuable documents to emerge from jazz vaults since the advent of the compact disc.  The Quintet is as follows:

1.       Miles Davis (trumpet)
2.      Wayne Shorter (tenor and soprano saxophones)
3.      Chick Corea (electric piano, piano)
4.      Dave Holland (bass)
5.      Jack DeJohnette (drums)

Wayne Shorter, of course, returns from Miles’ second great quintet.  The rest of the band is new.  They never recorded in the studio, something Miles apparently regretted.  I believe this is the first official release of their music.  It would be enough to get three CDs and a DVD of new music from a Davis quintet to make this a red letter occasion. 
However, this is also priceless as a document of the last big turn in Miles’ career.  ‘Bitches Brew’ appears twice in the collection.  The Dark Magus is about to emerge, leaving jazz rather behind in my view.  In this collection, however, Miles and his crew are still firmly in the template that was established with the Plugged Nickel recordings in 1965.  This is genuine jazz in anyone’s book.
Like The Bootleg Series Vol. 1, the music is pensive yet intense.  It presents a series of solos mostly unmoored from any central melody.  Also like Vol. 1, it is not nearly as laconic as the Plugged Nickel sessions.  If anything, these recordings are a step away from avant garde. 
However, the third quintet, if one may call it that, clearly displays the fusionesque elements that show where Miles is going in 1969.  Having Shorter play soprano feeds this impression.  Most of all, the inclusion of Chick Corea on electric piano gives several of the numbers a Return to Forever touch. 
I am not as ready as I once was to agree with Stanley Crouch about Bitches Brew.  Crouch, a brilliant jazz critic, thought that Miles’ recordings after 69 were just an example of sellout.  I am still making up my mind after all these years.  I will say that I wish we had a few more years and some studio recordings of this last jazz quintet.  Holland and DeJohnette are consummate jazz men.  Miles could have molded this group into as powerful an instrument as his first two quintets, if he hadn’t decided to go in a different direction. 
Judged on its own merits, the Bootleg Series Vol. 2 is a marvelous collection of music.  I am playing:

1.       ‘Paraphernalia’
2.      ‘Nefertiti’, and
3.      ‘Round Midnight’.


  1. Much of my early listening to jazz was to LP live recordings Mingus/Coltrane/Dolphy European tours from the 1961-64 period. The sound quality was generally not perfect but, in retrospect, neither were the licensing arrangements either. Each concert hall seemed to have its own acoustic patina.
    As I had a few long bus trips last week, I took up your Miles Davis commendation and loaded up my ipod (using Spotify) with tracks from volumes 1 and 2 of the Bootleg CDs., plus matching tracks from his earlier European tours in 1960/63/64.
    Listening to the same song recorded at different dates over nearly 10 years and at similar locations, showed how much the sound of his Quintets evolved; it is not just personnel changes, but also the move from bebop, through to modal, free, fusion forms of jazz. The way the drums, bass and keyboard(s) were played seemed to change most dramatically.
    You may not convert me to liking the Miles Davis trumpet tone, but it was a great listening experience and the journey seemed to pass quickly. I am also minded to listen to Wayne Shorter a bit more.

  2. Thanks for the comment, MrD. I emphatically agree that the spread of Mile's recordings across the years gives us a good chance to observe his trajectory. I think it's especially interesting to compare the Stockholm recordings of 1960 with the Plugged nickel recordings and the two bootleg boxes. 'All Blues' and 'The Theme' turn up frequently.

    I have never thought that Miles' trumpet was as bad as a lot of people say it is; however, it weren't his trumpet that made him famous. Wayne Shorter was brilliant. He has a new recording out now. I'll be reviewing it in Short order.