11.7.1969 Berlin

Is this Berlin gig the best Lost Quintet performance of 1969? For my money, it’s hard to find a better representation of this band. In terms of documentation, both the broadcast recording and the concert film are outstanding. Download the set below without hesitation, and if you don’t own the DVD of the performance included in The Bootleg Series Volume 2, make time to watch it in full. Seeing the Miles Davis quintet function as a single organism, one with such unbroken focus, will leave you in awe.

The performance itself is impeccable. Having witnessed this group of musicians operate at such a high level of both technical ability and creative growth throughout 1969, to hear them here in Berlin is like listening to the year distilled into a pure, unbroken 43-minute set. And a relatively tidy 6-song set at that.

“Directions” is a killer right out of the gate. You can tell the stage mix is solid because Miles’ tone is clear, even, and rarely piercing – a true harbinger for the rest of the set. (Check out the trumpeter ditch his exquisitely fringed vest early on as he gets down to business.) The transition into “Bitches Brew” is fluid to the point that the tunes simply dissolve into and out of one another – a giant leap from some of the awkward segues a little over a week earlier. The flow into “It’s About that Time” is just as seamless, with Corea expertly tweaking the volume knob on the Rhodes for a nice bit of added headiness. Miles and Shorter turn in some remarkably strong solos on the In A Silent Way standout – a consistent highlight of the European tour.

The concert film drops a spotlight on the impressive telepathy between Holland and DeJohnette, particularly in the more serene second half of the set – even the simple gesture of DeJohnette offering his towel during “I Fall in Love Too Easily” is oddly touching. It’s no wonder the two continue to perform together to this day.

The lost quintet certainly played more outre shows throughout the year – some of their wildest were mere days before – but the economy and focus of this set, its flow and its strange way of bending time, the nonchalance of the band who just pull it from the air, this one is near perfection.

Get the tape

  1. Introduction (2:14)
  2. Directions (6:59)
  3. Bitches Brew (13:28)
  4. It’s About That Time (14:09)
  5. I Fall in Love too Easily (3:42)
  6. Sanctuary/The Theme (5:11)

Miles Davis (trumpet)
Wayne Shorter (soprano, tenor)
Chick Corea (Fender Rhodes)
Dave Holland (upright bass)
Jack DeJohnette (drums)