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Friday, March 23, 2018

[Review] MILES DAVIS - "The Bootleg Series Vol. 6"

Alright, I'm about to mix it up a little for this post as Sony/Columbia is honoring perhaps the greatest artist of any field of music with a new posthumous release today. I'm talking about Miles Davis, the man with the horn, the man who saw jazz as a dirty word and came to embrace funk, soul, rock and Hip Hop while releasing classics upon classics with some of the best players of any era (people like Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Keith Jarrett, Easy Mo Bee, Mike Henderson, Prince, Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, Gil Evans, and the list goes on and on). The man really needs no introduction but since this is a Hip Hop site I don't blame you if you only really know him by his name and through his sampled loops on classics by Gang Starr, J Dilla, Mobb Deep, Biggie, The Crooklyn Dodgers, Prodigy, OutKast, DJ Shadow  and so many more. Also check out that recent remix album Robert Glasper put together building on Miles legacy a while back, its called "Everything's Beautiful" and it is indeed beautiful.

The release we're discussing today however is the latest entry in Columbia/Legacy's Miles' "Bootleg Series", so named because they have sorted out all the necessary red tape and restored and remastered many of the legendary concerts that was previously only available as half-assed bootlegs. This is a good thing as it's not only gives us the music as it was supposed to be heard (Ok, it was obviously meant to be heard LIVE but as far as technology goes this is the best experience of this msusic imaginable), but also because it helps the Miles Davis Foundation set up by his son, sister and nephew which will insure more future projects. And what's crazy about Miles music, at least for me, it's that no matter what era, or what year, every concert recording was a brand new "album" when you heard it in your headphones. So despite often featuring the same tracklist they came off as something totally new and fresh as innovationan and improvisation was the name of the game. Something I always compare to Hip Hop's show and prove freestyle movement. And no I'm not talking about blowns like Omelly though perhaps he's more of a comedy artist? For "Bootleg Series Vol. 6: The Final Tour" they have finally gone back to the European broadcast vaults to freshen up three full concerts defining a watershed moment not in just in the career of Miles Davis but also in the equally important John Coltrane's musical direction (and if you haven't seen the recent Coltrane documentary "Chasing Trane", cop the Blu Ray or head over to Netflix).

Spread out over four discs these three concerts represents about twenty European concerts in the spring of 1960, which was originally to have featured vibist Buddy Montgomery, making the group a sextet - unfortunately his fear of flying got the better of him. And while it would have been interesting to have an additional voice in there I feer that it would take away some of the magic of this being  the last time Miles Davis and John Coltrane shared a stage together after a fruitful 7 year partnership. About 6 more of these tour concerts can be found on bootlegs with varied quality buy I would venture out to say that both from a sonic perspective and a playing perspective Columbia/Legacy made a wise choice in keeping especially the legendary Paris and Stockholm concerts and added the Copenhagen show as a bonus).

What's so striking here is that Coltrane, the everlasting musical seaker, was clearly ready to break off and start his own group and go full-on solo. Miles D. had to make some bending to even get Coltrane to hit the plane with the quintet, and lets thank our lucky stars he did. He had in fact already recorded and just released his firstt solo masterpiece "Giant Steps" in the US but the European "high society people" had at its very hight heard "Kind Of Blue" (19599 but more likely "Round About Midnight" or "Milestones" (1957/1958) so they sure as hell wasn't expecting what they got those night and especially on the first night, The Paris concert spread over CD1 and CD2, minds were certainly blown that night with some of the jazz press calling the sound of the future wile others demanding their money back. Coltrane, always the searcher would find a similiar situation when hooking up with Impulse! Records and Eric Dolphy for The Village Vanguard sets a year or so later. The thing is that 'Trane's music was becoming quite different from Miles' blueprint here, which was highly evolved Be Bop with the musicians playing beautifully but with force and commitment but it was also evolving and creating Modal Jazz, which did away with chord changes and relied on scales and setting a mood that let the player go for almost as long a he likes.

So a tune like the standard "Bye Bye Blackbird" will start familarily enough with the classic piano introduction by Kelly, before Miles introduces the theme and builds a modal solo of about 4 minutes over Kelly's accompaning and Jimmy Cobbs and Paul Chambers tandem rhythmicl excellence. Then as Miles' is lowering his horn 'Trane takes the stand and blasts away into the stratosphere with an absolutely astounding 8 minute solo that mixes pure melodic beauty, with atonal shrieks, sheets of sound and by and large true  experimenting and what some would even call rehearsing on the bandstand by the most ardent naysayers. But isn't this a part of what daring live jazz should be? Fuck playing it safe. And this discrepancy between Miles smoother, beautiful, non agressive sound, with an saxophonist that's doing the exact opposite is not a discrepancy - it's pure balance, it's Yin & Yang. This is the  way he worked with all of his best long-time saxophonists from Wayne Shorter to Dave Liebman to Kenny Garrett and before that he picked it up from Charlie Parker, The Byrd, himself. 

The three concerts in question in this beautiful package might actually be as good an introduction to the music of Miles Davis to latecomers as any although I suspect for us Hip Hop heads something like "On The Coner", In A Silent Way" or "Live-Evil" might  probably a better bet. But it's 5/5 music no question, everyone involved play as through telepathy. The rhythm section was so good that they broke off within a year and became a highly sought-out piano trio called The Wynton Kelly trio, releasing classic albums with Wes Montomety in '65. It's also a very important historical moment for black music. 

The nights are presented in chronological order and the first two discs are dedicated to the infamous May 22 concerts in Paris' Olympia Theatre. It's amazing now to think that about half of the audience is cheering and applauding Coltrane and the other half is catcalling and strongly disapprove - metaphorically telling the band to "turn off that racket!". Man I bet those guys felt like suckers some years down the line, but I can't really blame them. Change in a beloved musician, or even n hero, can be a tough thing to swallow and something that takes patience and repeated listens to try to understand. And Miles Davis himself would be in a similiar shitstorm (just like Bob Dylan) when he started incorporating funk rhythms, loosing the black suits,  embracing electronic instruments like multiple keyboards and the use of both electric and stand-up bass on what we now consider classics like "Bitches Brew" and "On The Corner"´. I hope I am not too out of line in posting this review, as I know I haven't been posting much, but this is my site after all and this is without a doubt have been one of my most anticipated records of the year. Add to that that "The Bootleg Series" in the Miles Davis legacy CD:s always look wonderful and is really well thought out, no expenses spared. And the Paris set is also being released on a 2xLP set while the Tivoli, Copenhagen drops on a limited single EP.- From this original Bootlegs The Copenhagen concert is without he best restoreed and the rarest in the set so is in a way th the gem of the set. As far as straight audacity and sound quality the Paris and Stockolm concerts is the crown jewels they been released in great quality by Parus NPR and Swden's SR broadcast. But two  hours and 40 minutes of the best this music has ever been heard is really something. Don't take my word for it, and even if you see that many of the tracks appear a couple of times throughout he rracklis don't be discoruged, because this is really three excluziv comcerts that not even this quintet could evey replicate The albm is available on Amazon for a resonable pirce but if you''re from the AI digital realm just type you head over to iTunes.


  1. You bro you better remember me hahaha 1 this is a really good write up man I appreciate your contributions to the scene you really have a way of enticing me to music.

    Mayne do a top 10 miles albums list? Just a suggestion I know you LOVE miles is all

  2. Nice to see a hip hop head w such a dedication to Miles One love

  3. You should do some album lists like for miles trane or whatever artist or genre. 10 jazz gems, 10 2010s true school hop hop under the radar albums

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