Columbia/Legacy Releases Miles Davis Quintet: Live In Europe, 1967, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1

By , Columnist
Rare is the hardcore jazz musician under 40 who hasn’t soaked up the contents of the seven CDs that comprise Miles Davis: The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel: 1965.

Released in 1995, and long out of print, that box set documents each set of a weekend engagement at the popular Near North Side Chicago nightclub by Davis’ “second great quintet” (tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Tony Williams), then a working unit for a year and change.

As they almost always did when performing before an audience, these world-class virtuosos interacted as consummate team players, treating the bandstand as a free-wheeling laboratory on which they made instant collective decisions on navigating all the harmonic and rhythmic choices available at any given moment in the flow.

The strategies they evolved for stretching the rules of 32-bar song form as far as possible without compromising the integrity of the song in question remain the gold standard of main-stem jazz syntax circa 2011.

As Davis wrote in his autobiography: “The music we did together changed every f*cking night; if you heard it yesterday, it was different tonight.”

For this reason, any location recording of the Davis-Shorter-Hancock-Carter-Williams band is a hot ticket for the hardcore jazz connoisseur, and many of them will already have found ways to possess more than a few of the sessions contained in Columbia/Legacy’s September 20th release of Miles Davis Quintet - Live in Europe, 1967: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1.
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Over the course of the three CDs and single DVD that comprise the package, the listener can hear, seriatem, authorized versions of complete concerts from Antwerp, Copenhagen, and Paris (CD) and excerpts from concerts in Karlsruhe, Germany, and Stockholm (DVD) between October 28 and November 7, 1967.

Culled from original state-owned television and radio sources, the sound is uniformly excellent by the standards of the time, while the images from the televised concerts are of superb quality, highlighting a sophisticated mise en scene that illuminates the music as it transpires in real time.

 What distinguishes these documents is an opportunity to hear the MDQ work its mojo on original compositions from their contemporaneous albums—Davis’ “Agitation” (E.S.P.), Shorter’s “Footprints” (Miles Smiles) and “Masqualero” (Sorcerer), Hancock’s “Riot” (Nefertiti), and Jimmy Heath’s “Gingerbread Boy” (Miles Smiles)—as well as vertiginous explorations of such older band vehicles as “Round Midnight,” ”No Blues,” and “I Fall In Love Too Easily.”

As Carter told me a few years ago: ““The new tunes that we recorded really tolerate the kind of twisting that we did to the standards. We’d sight-read them for the date, and since most of them are first and second takes, I guess they’re quite astonishing. But I wish we’d had a chance to play ‘Footprints’ as often as ‘So What,’ or ‘Circle’ as often as ‘Some Day My Prince Will Come.’ After this recording series, Miles went somewhere else with his view of music, and we lost the chance to do that kind of development.”

Miles+Davis.jpg If the Volume 1 is any indicator, Columbia—in conjunction with the Miles Davis Estate—intends to emulate its successful Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash “Bootleg Series” editions in exploiting the enormous cache of yet-to-be-officially-issued Davis bootlegs from various stops along the timeline of his amazingly varied career.

If this is indeed the beginning of a longer, archival project, the public will not object.

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