Sony Legacy’s LIVE in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol.1 collects no less than five performances by the Miles Davis Quintet, professionally recorded by European radio and television stations. Three shows are spread out over three CDs (over three hours of music), while two are featured on a DVD (running sixty-five minutes). As noted in the extensive liner notes, none of the recordings on the CDs have ever been commercially released until now. Before, collectors have had to resort to bootlegs of the shows from Antwerp and Paris. The five song set from Copenhagen has never even been bootlegged.
In short, this release is a treasure trove for jazz aficionados. This was the second great quintet assembled by Miles Davis, consisting of Davis (trumpet), Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Tony Williams (drums). The group was one of the most adventurous and highly-skilled of Davis’ career. Unafraid to push the boundaries of a tune’s chord structure, the quintet radically reinvented them in the process. Each of these musicians would go on to sustain long, successful careers after the quintet’s 1968 break-up. Rather than sideman serving a leader, their individual contributions to each performance were integral. In late 1967, they were at the top of their game as a collective unit.
The DVD, previously available only as a part of the expensive seventy-CD The Complete Columbia Album Collection, offers visual evidence of the tight connection between these five artists. The black and white footage was well shot and, considering its age, is presented in excellent quality. Flowing smoothly from one tune to the next, the group is serious and focused, completely attuned to one another as they trade solos.
The audience, glimpsed briefly from time to time, sits in rapt attention. They remain almost silent throughout the performances, saving their applause for the end of the set. Little did they know they were witnessing an incandescent peak of Davis’ acoustic era. The very next year would see the inclusion of electric instruments for the first time in Davis’ music, marking the beginning of a bold new direction for the artist.
The set lists throughout the collection are very similar, which allows the listener to hone in on the differences between takes of the same tune. “The Theme” appears at the end of each set as a brief concluding statement, though it gets stretched out to over eight minutes for the Paris show. Shorter’s classic “Footprints” turns up five times, faster and more intense than its studio counterpart, with consistently astounding solos by Shorter.
Don’t be leery of the word “bootleg,” at least not for this release. The fidelity of these soundboard recordings is consistently excellent. Though not as full-bodied as a studio recording from the same period, each instrumentalist is clearly audible. LIVE in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol.1 is, as the producers of the collection explain, the first of a planned series of rare recordings by Miles Davis.