Saturday, April 20, 2013

Miles Across the Miles

DVD-CD set tracks Miles Davis' 1969 European tour

By David Luhrssen
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  As the ‘60s edged toward 1970, Miles Davis toured with a splendid quintet. He never recorded with them in the studio but the names of his collaborators would dominate jazz in the coming decade, including Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. Some of their live performances have circulated illicitly for years. Finally, Columbia Legacy has issued an official package. Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 gathers three CDs of material recorded at jazz festivals in France and Sweden plus a DVD from Germany.

The DVD finds the Davis Quintet holding forth in the round from a slightly raised platform at the heart of the modernist Berlin Philharmonic. Introspective, thoughtful and immaculate, Davis listened before leaping as his band crossed the sound barrier between jazz and the space age.

The music was called jazz-rock fusion and indeed, it laid the foundation for the megabites of mediocre fusion that followed. Davis, however, was the explorer, making music that was dynamic and challenging. But was it rock? Not unlike the tribute to Duke Ellington opening the concert, “Directions,” Davis’ play on rock was a bold abstraction, not a replication.

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