Miles Davis Quintet – Live in Europe 1969
(Columbia/Legacy 88725 418532. CD Review by Chris Parker)
Subtitled ‘The Bootleg Series Vol. 2’, these three CDs and a DVD document four concerts in 1969 performed in Antibes, Stockholm and Berlin by the ‘lost’ Miles Davis band: Wayne Shorter (saxophones), Chick Corea (electric piano), Dave Holland (acoustic bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums).
As Corea points out in the liner notes, this was a ‘transitional band and music, resulting in Bitches Brew and Miles’ later steady beat music, with Miles’ lyrical voice remaining always the touchstone’, and so for Davis aficionados, this set provides the missing link between what Corea calls ‘the famous suit-and-tie-wearing quintet with Herbie, Tony, Ron and Wayne’ and the later ‘seething cauldron’ music that preceded his temporary mid-1970s retirement.
Restless, somewhat unfocused energy characterises the quintet’s four performances, DeJohnette’s roiling vigour propelling the free-ish playing of Holland and Corea, and Shorter contributing his customary enigmatic but pithily cogent saxophones to the mix.
Davis himself fires off a series of high-intensity, spearing solos, and there are many moments over the four discs when the music gels excitingly into the bubbling electronic stew of later live albums such as Agharta, but overall this is very much a nervy work-in-progress, an uneasy mix of Davis’s former acoustic style and his later electric music, its performers audibly feeling their way towards a destination that perhaps only their leader himself had clear in his mind – fascinating nonetheless, mind you, and a valuable record of one of Davis’s most lastingly influential transitions.