Sunday, 9 October 2011

Miles Davis Live In Europe 1967 – The Bootleg Series Vol 1

Aren’t you sick of Miles Davis yet? How many more artefacts from his Tomb of Unreleased Tunes can you stand? How many more do you want?
 Right now Miles archaeologists at Columbia records are up to their ears in dusty cans deep inside storage vaults in some remote corner of the world, carefully handling precious canned relics with gloved hands. It should be televised, since there seem to be so many archaeological programmes on the idiot box. Call it ‘Digging Miles’.

Miles more Miles – how more miles are there to go? When you think they may have come to the end of the road, the explorers go further. Here are ‘live’ sets from the European tour. You guessed that from the title, didn’t you? Perhaps you’re a casual fan, in which case, this won’t be of interest. Perhaps you only own ‘Kind Of Blue’, and did own ‘On The Corner’ for a month before realising you’d never get into that. Perhaps you just have the t-shirt. I saw some Blue Note t-shirts in Uniqlo a while back. They struck me as an odd kind of product. How many Uniqlo shoppers would know who the artists were? Not many. So why would anyone who didn’t know buy one of them? They must have been dreamt up by the marketing team late one Friday afternoon and OK’d by their manager, who was drunk from a lunchtime booze-up.

Miles liked clothes. In the mid-to-late-50s he was the Best Dressed Jazz Musician in town, probably – ‘pure Ivy’, as my friend might say, and he’s an authority on the unstructured jacket circa 1956. The Look was perfectly tailored to the music, of course - ultra-cool. But then, Jazz LP sleeves of the time are filled with lessons in how to look Cool, aren’t they?

In ’67 Miles was just one or two giant steps away from a major transformation –out of the sharp tailored look, and into superfly shades and flares for the psychedelic funkified electric brew he would concoct. Meanwhile, here, the band are running riot with material they created, along with a few standards. Don’t let the sight of ‘‘Round Midnight’ put you off, not that I think it would because if you know anything about this band from other ‘live’ recordings you’ll understand what they do with standards.

Listening to ‘Riot’, Tony Williams stoking the fire (‘Burn, baby, burn!’), the intensity is amazing. There’s much here that is amazing. It’s a la modal magnificence which requires a hundred plays to really appreciate. Just the way ‘Riot’ breaks down to allow Herbie Hancock to play is spectacular. Miles’ solo, the first in ‘On Green Dolphin Street’ (Antwerp) is one of my favourite parts so far. His tone is so pure, so ecstatically right. On the second version, he starts differently, more restrained. But this is only one example of how they breathed life into every number, one way, then another. It was ESP between all four.

More Miles that’s as good as this is fine by me.

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