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Album review: Miles Davis Quintet's exceptional 'Live in Europe 1969'

The striking box set features Davis and his Lost Band — among them Chick Corea and Wayne Shorter — who upend some of Davis' older material and tear through tracks from his electric period.

January 28, 2013|By Chris Barton, Los Angeles Times
  • Miles Davis' "Live in Europe, 1969."
Miles Davis' "Live in Europe, 1969." (Sony Music Entertainment )

Miles Davis had a raw, multi-syllable name for his group from 1969, and it wasn't one we can print in this newspaper.

Known in various jazz-obsessive circles as the Lost Band, the powerful quintet of all stars Davis assembled between the release of plate-shifting albums "In a Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew" included keyboardist Chick Corea, bassist Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette and saxophonist Wayne Shorter.

Though the group famously was never documented in the studio, its legacy is enhanced with "Live in Europe 1969," a four disc set that marks the second volume in Columbia/Legacy's Bootleg Series.

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This look back through Davis' concert archives began last year with the box set "Live in Europe 1967." It was greeted with a justifiable avalanche of acclaim upon release for showcasing Davis at another of his many peaks with his influential "second great quintet," which included Shorter along with Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Ron Carter.

If that group could be considered the moment when the rockets were all firing for Davis, "Live in Europe 1969" documents the trumpeter's restless exploration at liftoff. Two of the CDs are recordings taken a day apart in France, and while hearing the band tear through early takes on pillars from the trumpeter's electric period such as "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" and "Spanish Key," it's hearing the band upend some of Davis' older material that may be most striking.

After a pensive beginning, "Footprints" speeds toward the outer limits, highlighted by an abstract, quicksilver turn from Corea, and 1967's "Masqualero" enters with something like a kick through the door after a broad, fluttering tone from Davis so unfamiliar it briefly sounds like an electronic hiccup. Shorter also sounds exceptional throughout, locking on the trance-like opening to "No Blues" and the sprawling "Milestones," which madly pulses and swings ahead after a twisting lead from Davis atop Holland's elastic bassline.

The two remaining discs include an intriguing date from Stockholm that features Corea on acoustic piano and a DVD documenting a burning 45-minute Berlin performance. The latter is not only notable for showcasing five masters in their prime but also as visual affirmation that — in what feels like a bit of a surprise after listening — they actually walked among us.

Miles Davis Quintet

"Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2"

(Columbia/Legacy)

4 stars

chris.barton@latimes.com

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