10.27.1969 Rome

The quintet’s second date on the Newport Jazz Festival European tour brought them to Teatro Sistina in Rome with a TV and radio broadcast crew at the ready. While the quality of the audio recording is superb, it’s worth noting that “The Theme” has been pruned from the end of the afternoon set, and “Directions” is absent from the start of the evening performance – giving the impression of an uninterrupted 89-minute gig. The available video is a bit of a mish mash of partial tunes from both sets, but essential viewing.

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10.26.1969 Milan

While the quintet set off for Chicago, Cincinnati and LA shortly after the August 19-21 Bitches Brew session, the next circulating tape is this murky audience gem from late October in Milan – the first of an incredible, and incredibly well documented run of gigs from the Newport Jazz Festival European tour.

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8.19-21, 1969: Bitches Brew Sessions

Given the rapid evolution of the quintet across the first half of 1969, it’s no surprise that the band we hear on July 27th at Rutgers sounds remarkably different from the one featured on the next available tape, October 26th (upcoming). The change agent being, of course, the three-day sessions at Columbia Studio B on August 19, 20 and 21st that produced the Bitches Brew LP. 

Though the focus of this series is on Miles’ live performances from 69-75, the impact of that session on his live output was so immediate and long-lasting that providing context feels necessary. It’s also just incredible to hear this album being created before our ears. 

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7.27.1969 Rutgers

By the time the quintet took the stage in New Brunswick, they were on their third gig in three days with more than 3,000 miles of travel in between. As evidenced by this brief audience tape of an incomplete set, our heroes remained undaunted.

Perhaps his Fender Rhodes was in the shop after giving him trouble in Antibes, but Corea is on acoustic piano throughout the recording, giving “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” a slightly more toned down reading than we’ve heard thus far. Without the wild ring modulation effect on the electric piano we’d hear from him in 1970, Corea’s able to make the switch quite gracefully here.

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7.25 & 7.26.1969 Antibes

This pair of gigs from the Juan-les-Pins Festival were two of the most heavily circulated recordings from the ‘69 quintet before their official release in 2013 as Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 (the 7.25 set was issued decades earlier in Japan as 1969 Miles – Festiva De Juan Pins). Both were recorded for radio broadcast and the 7.25 set was filmed in luscious B&W for television, and for a while they were the only recorded evidence of the lost quintet out there in the wild. 

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7.7.1969 Central Park

The summer of ‘69 rolls on with a true scorcher in Central Park, just a couple of days after the Shorter-less blowout at the Newport Jazz Fest. Like that Newport gig, you can hear the band continuing to work out and refine a lot of the phrasing and touchpoints they’d use to great effect on the Bitches Brew sessions a month later. 

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7.5.1969 Newport Jazz Fest

The earliest pro-recorded live set of 1969 comes from the Newport Jazz Fest – oddly, it’s also an incomplete set, with 3 songs clocking in at just 24 recorded minutes. Not surprisingly, it smokes, explaining why Columbia has released it on the Bitches Brew Live comp in 2011 and again on Miles Davis at Newport 1955–1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 in 2015.

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6.21.1969 Blue Coronet

This audience tape from the Blue Coronet in NYC is one of the better sounding recordings from the first half of 1969 and the second to feature the monster “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” – 17+ minutes here! This is the fourth circulating reel from 1969, and the band’s evolution across just a few months is astonishing. You can hear them stretching the limits of hard bop and moving into purely uncharted turf.

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6.4.1969 Plugged Nickel

This audience tape sounds as though it were recorded from inside a coffee tin backstage, but let your ears adjust and be rewarded; the band was positively ON at this Plugged Nickel gig. As if trying to one-up Miles’ notoriously 1965 recordings at the same venue, the quintet summits early with an impressively intense “Gingerbread Boy”. The solos on this tune are jaw droppers, both in their pacing and precision – Corea sneaks in some particularly bizarre chords amidst his flurry, and Holland’s turn is simply superhuman. 

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May June 1969 Village Gate

Our second audience tape of 1969 is a brief snapshot from the band’s May-June stretch at the Village Gate. But my god, what a show. Though session details list Jack DeJohnette on drums*, this is unquestionably Tony Williams behind the kit – making this a hybrid of Miles’ mid-60s combo (Shorter & Williams) and the “lost quintet” (Corea & Holland). And Williams is full-bore from the start, not necessarily overplaying but clearly pushing the rest of the band (even Miles) into supporting roles. Understandably so – the man was recording his own killer LP, Emergency!, around this same time. 

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