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8:34 pm
Sat March 2, 2013

Jazz Release Of The Month: Miles Davis Quintet/Live In Europe 1969/Columbia/Legacy

The music of Miles Davis was changing dramatically in the late 1960s. Most fans of the legendary trumpeter know that in 1969 he recorded Bitches Brew, the hugely successful dawn of jazz-rock that was one of the best selling jazz records ever released. Lesser known is the working unit that Miles took with him on the road was one of the most artistically daring and visionary bands that Miles ever led. Recordings of that outfit have recently surfaced and have been released on a multi-disc set, Live In Europe 1969, The Complete Bootleg Sessions Vol. 2.

Previously unreleased recordings of Miles and his quintet at Antibes Jazz Festival on France from July 1969 take up the first two of the CDs in this set. The third CD contains extracts from a performance in Stockholm in November, 1969. The collection is concluded by a DVD of a performance in November, 1969 at the Berlin Philharmonie.

Onstage for these performances are Miles Davis, trumpet with Wayne Shorter, tenor and soprano saxophones; Chick Corea, electric piano and piano; Dave Holland, bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. To say that these performances are riveting would be an understatement. What captivates the listener is the ability of Miles and his men to consistently ride the waves of great tension and excitement without giving way into artistic abandon.  It is a musical tightrope and this band was able to sustain the balance needed to fan the flames of emotional intensity & inspired artistry without losing control. Critics of the time said of the band, and especially Miles & Wayne, that they played "like gods". That is a good way to describe the inspired performances of material both new and old such as "Bitches Brew", "Round Midnight", "Directions", "’Round Midnight", "Sanctuary" and many more.  

There can be no doubt the turbulent world political climate had a major influence on the music of any artistically creative jazz performer in the 1960s. More significantly, the soulful grooves of James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone had a major impact on Miles Davis, as did the once-in-a-lifetime guitar artistry of Jimi Hendrix. Coupled with the then young impulses of his sidemen, Miles Davis was pursuing dynamic, unpredictable "Directions In Music" in 1969.

Since that time, the young men that Miles led in 1969 have become legendary jazz artists in their own right. Chick Corea has led various lineups of his hugely successful Return To Forever band for decades in addition to being a much in demand straight ahead jazz pianist on countless sessions.  Wayne Shorter continues to lead his own bands. Shorter is perhaps best known for co-founding the hugely successful supergroup Weather Report. His latest recording with his quartet demonstrates his relentless energy and creativity as a saxophonist.  Jack DeJohnette continues to tour and perform and record worldwide as one of the most important drummers in jazz. And Dave Holland has successfully led small bands and large ensembles over the last several decades, his brilliant artistry at the bass making him one of the foremost artists in the field.

Miles Davis passed away in 1991, but his legacy as one of the most important artists in jazz is reinforced once more by this collection of brilliant performances of his 1969 quintet. Highly recommended as a permanent addition to a home jazz library.