Like any normal jazz fan I have 30 or 40 Miles Davis albums. It was impossible to stop adding to the collection because Davis' music was always moving ahead. Take this new set by the Miles Davis Quintet, "Live in Europe 1967." It's the first installment of the new Bootleg Series, and though it's from the tail end of Davis' acoustic period, the feel is electric.
It's a wild ride, and the band's creative energy is unstoppable. Trumpeter Davis is playing with Herbie Hancock on piano, Wayne Shorter on sax, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. They are all outstanding, but it's Williams' propulsive energy that makes this music accessible to rock-oriented listeners. He was just 22 years old.
I recently spoke with Miles Davis' son Erin Davis and nephew Vince Wilburn Jr. about the new release. Erin told me his dad's approach to concerts was to "rehearse on stage, and be ready for anything." That's exactly what makes these performances so fresh; it really does feel like anything could happen. Responding to my question as to why it's taken 44 years to release these concerts, Vince said they just recently discovered the tapes in the family vault in Los Angeles.
The quintet was together from 1964 to 1968, but this music dates from the fall of 1967. These sets were recorded by state-owned television and radio stations in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, and Sweden, which is probably why the music isn't in stereo, and the video is black and white. The engineers did a fine job, and sound and picture quality are very good. The music's soft-to-loud dynamic range is better than what you'll hear from most contemporary jazz recordings. The DVD concerts taped in Germany and Sweden are wonderful, and if you're new to jazz you'll learn a lot by watching Davis and his men. Davis is in total control, and it's great to see how his slightest gesture or glance cues the other musicians.
The "Miles Davis Quintet, Live in Europe 1967," four-disc (three CDs and one DVD) package comes with a 28-page booklet. That's the best-sounding version, but there's also an MP3 set on Amazon.com, where you can buy the music that appears on all three CDs or buy individual tracks.