Following the 2011 release of the extraordinary first volume, which spotlighted Miles Davis’ second great quintet, Sony Legacy has issued Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2. This second volume follows the model established by the first—three CDs and a DVD. The collection showcases Davis’ “lost” quintet, which included Wayne Shorter on tenor and soprano saxes, Chick Corea on keys, Dave Holland on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums. The group has long been dubbed “lost” because there weren’t any recordings, studio or otherwise, officially released during their brief time together. That is, until now.
Start with the DVD for an electrifying introduction to this lineup. Taped November 7, 1969 in Berlin, this 45-minute concert is a fascinating opportunity to see a Davis in full control of his instrumental prowess, both as trumpeter and bandleader. As the announcer introduces the quintet members individually, the band looks like they’re preparing for battle; serious and utterly focused. This is Davis in transition, no longer fully acoustic thanks to Corea’s electric piano, but not the hardcore fusion that would soon follow. The musicians glide from one selection to the next so smoothly, you might not notice the switch unless you’re paying close attention. And close attention is what this entire set demands.
The CDs offer three nearly complete concerts, all originally recorded for broadcast on state-owned radio stations. The first two were recorded on back-to-back days, July 25 and 26, 1969 in Antibes, France. The set lists range from standards like “I Fall in Love Too Easily” and Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight” to selections from Davis’ then yet-to-be-released Bitches Brew. The constantly churning rhythm section segues from Joe Zawinul’s “Directions” into the heavy groove of “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” on the first disc, with Davis conjuring a fat, juicy tone on his trumpet during the latter.
The second show includes significantly different takes on some of the same tunes (“Voodoo Down,” for instance, shows up later in the set and the funk hits even harder). It also boasts a few tunes that don’t repeat in any of the other three sets, including Davis originals “No Blues” and “Spanish Key.” The former features what might be Holland’s finest bass solo on the collection, plus some especially blistering trumpet lines from the bandleader. The latter tune benefits from some fascinatingly discordant keyboard soloing courtesy of Corea.
The third concert is a slightly edited set from November 5, 1969 in Stockholm, Sweden. “Masqualero” was faded out by the radio station that originally broadcast the show, so the tune trails off just under the eight minute mark. Chick Corea’s “This” was tacked on a consolation prize, pulled from the second concert of that night (I wonder if the rest of that set will surface at some point). One noteworthy difference about the third disc is that Corea plays acoustic piano on that one. It offers a starkly contrasting sound—more traditional, but no less excellent—when compared with the more progressive electric keyboard work on the other sets.
Though the liner notes by Josef Woodard are excellent, featuring new interview material with drummer DeJohnette, an actual booklet would’ve been infinitely preferable to the “mini-poster” the notes are printed on. It’s a real pain to unfold that thing just to read about the music contained on these discs. That relatively minor complaint aside, Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 is an essential entry in the Miles Davis discography.