This was the line-up for the Miles Davis Quintet circa 1969-1970 – a cast of players that began to take shape on Filles De Kilimanjaro and In A Silent Way and were together as part of the larger ensemble that that created Bitches Brew … but were never captured in the studio by themselves.
Thanks to the efforts of Columbia Legacy and their Miles Davis Bootleg Series, we now have a time capsule of what is known as Davis’ “Third Great Quintet”. Live In Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Volume 2 finds the band on stage without a net rather than in the safer confines of the studio – and it’s the perfect setting to appreciate this line-up in all its power and glory.
The first two discs of the 3-CD/1-DVD set are back-to-back performances from France’s Festival Mondial du Jazz d’Antibes in July of ’69. Both sets begin with the fierce chaos of “Directions” – as much a flex of DeJohnette’s muscles as anything. On 7/25/69 (Disc 1) Davis soothes the mood and nudges things toward the cool funk of “Miles Runs The Voodoo Down”; Disc 2 finds he and Corea bumping fenders as they push the jam into “Spanish Key”. (It’s worth noting that both “Voodoo” and “Spanish” were unreleased at the time of these recordings – not destined to see the light of day until the groundbreaking Bitches Brew dropped in April of the following year.)
The Antibes performances are packed with great moments (recorded for French radio at the time) with the band pushing the music without a break, pulling off segues that today’s jamsters would be proud of. “Milestones” is the ultimate tease: a combination of instantly-recognizable signature riff (given a stop-and-go treatment on 7/25) that quickly segues into nearly 14 minutes of godjam. This one belongs to Holland – listen to his double bass’ reactions and suggestions to his bandmates’ statements.
“I Fall In Love Too Easily” is nearly three minutes of Davis making gentle love to his horn with Corea throwing rose petals underneath it all; at the heart of “No Blues” is some classic John DeJohnette; “Masqualero” is a roar in the darkest of jungles; and Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight” is a joyous be-bop romp by all hands. Corea’s electric piano on “It’s About That Time” on 7/25 is particularly aggressive and edgy, matched only by his attack on a repeat of “Miles Runs The Voodoo Down” on the following night. “Sanctuary” > “The Theme” close out Discs 1 and 2 with a wink.
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