Given the numerous times Miles Davis' official catalog has been issued, and the numerous live dates available, it's reasonable to question the necessity of a release with the subtitle Bootleg Series, Vol. 1.The answer, at least in this case, is a resounding "yes." This four-disc box -- three CDs and a DVD, capture Davis' second (and longest-lived) ...
Given the numerous times Miles Davis' official catalog has been issued, and the numerous live dates available, it's reasonable to question the necessity of a release with the subtitle Bootleg Series, Vol. 1.The answer, at least in this case, is a resounding "yes." This four-disc box -- three CDs and a DVD, capture Davis' second (and longest-lived) quintet at their creative pinnacle in 1967, playing five concerts in different European cities -- three on the CDs, two more on DVD. All of them were broadcasts from George Wein's Newport Jazz Festival in Europe.The concert tapes were licensed from the various nations' official broadcast archives.The CDs containing the Paris and Antwerp concerts have been bootlegged before -- though the Paris gig is finally complete here with the first two songs of the set added on -- and both feature better sound quality. The Copenhagen date is featured here for the first time anywhere.The DVD was included in the 70-CD set, Miles Davis: The Complete Columbia Album Collection in 2009, but most of us haven't seen it. Musically, the quintet -- Davis, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams -- are firing on all cylinders throughout. The set lists for these performances are quite similar, but that doesn't mean the repetition is monotonous. These performances are intense, as the quintet plays a fiery meld of post-hard bop infused with modal music and tinges of free jazz. The only tunes remaining from earlier Davis set lists are "'Round Midnight," "On Green Dolphin Street," and "Gingerbread Boy," and one version each of "Walkin'" and "I Fall in Love Too Easily." That said, these versions are radically different from one another. The lion's share of the material was composed by Davis ("Agitation" and "No Blues") Shorter ("Footprints" and "Masqualero"), and Hancock ("Riot"). One need only to listen to the various versions of opener "Agitation" to realize how much the various interpretations shifted each night. Davis' solos which always take place first -- are wildly imaginative and dynamic, driven hard by Williams' kit attack. In each concert, "Agitation" whets the appetite of the listener -- for all that is expected, more is always delivered. The various versions of these tunes contain different accents, harmonic ranges, and spatial considerations as the solos played by each member -- particularly by Shorter -- reveal an astonishing range of ideas. There are no breaks between tunes, either; rather, they simply segue seamlessly, one into another until "The Theme" signals a gig's end. Shorter's compositions in particular reveal the outside realms the band was willing to encounter, where space becomes as much a part of the interactive relationship as harmony and rhythm. Hancock's "Riot" sometimes begins as an electrical charge where the front line is all in, and in others, they segue out of "No Blues," and build in levels of intensity off the knotty head. It isn't how much these cats play, it's how readily they create something new from the familiar each night. As for the standards "'Round Midnight" takes on such different dimensions in each performance, it can sound like different tunes. The concerts on the DVD contain two complete performances shot in black-and-white, in high broadcast quality and fidelity. The German performance contains an extended version of "I Fall in Love Too Easily," which begins with Davis tenderly playing the melody solo before the entire band plays at full sprint, and Shorter blows the guts out of his horn, making it a slightly more preferable version. The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1: Live in Europe 1967 box is an essential addition to the catalog. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi