The November 1969 performance by Miles Davis’ “lost quintet” at the ultra-modern De Doelen concert hall was arguably the pinnacle of the group’s European tour. Ebullient, tight, and brimming with virtuosity, it was also the final tape of the Shorter, Corea, Holland, and DeJohnette era. The Miles Davis working group that returned to the venue as part of 1971 Newport Festival in Europe tour was an altogether different lineup, and with just nine shows under its belt, was positively buzzing with creative tension by the time it reached Rotterdam.
The performance on October 29th is manic from the start, with Keith Jarrett (arguably the band’s melodic anchor) throwing down an atonal conniption fit of a solo at the height of “Directions”. The band practically stumbles through “Honky Tonk” and into “What I Say”, attacking it with a tempo that seems to steadily increase as the tour rolls on – Ndugu drops the beat so often at the tune’s frantic pace that the floor simply falls out from under Jarrett’s solo before Michael Henderson steadies the ship with an out-of-nowhere walking bassline.
Performing the same setlist for the fourth straight show proves its usefulness here, with the septet nearly exhausting itself early before settling into the more downtempo second half of the set. This is the portion of the show where Miles seems increasingly at ease, letting the music stretch and breathe before cueing the next tune, his solos are often brief but poignant – his muted solo in “Yesternow” here is exceptional. And though the percussionists sound confused throughout the tune proper, Jarrett’s “Funky Tonk” intro is sublime. Given Miles’ rapid evolution, this performance is a transitional period in itself and a fascinating one at that.
Note on the tape: There are at least a couple versions of this performance in circulation, including a slightly truncated, but sonically superior radio broadcast version (featured on the Milestones YT channel – above). A more complete tape is linked below and includes some of the non-broadcast sections in somewhat lesser fidelity.
Get the tape / Lossless
1. Directions (8:11)
2. Honky Tonk (11:09)
3. What I Say (13:51)
4. Sanctuary (3:14)
5. It’s About That Time (9:38)
6. Yesternow (11:06)
7. Funky Tonk (14:40)
8. Sanctuary (closing theme) (1:38)
Miles Davis (trumpet)
Gary Bartz (soprano sax, alto, sax)
Keith Jarrett (Fender Rhodes piano, Fender Contempo organ)
Michael Henderson (electric bass)
Ndugu Leon Chancler (drums)
Charles Don Alias (conga, percussion)
James Mtume Forman (conga, percussion)