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 Davis’ 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 Juan-les-Pins

This pair of gigs from the Antibes Festival were two of the most heavily circulated recordings from the Miles Davis Lost 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. 

Footage of the 7.25.1969 performance
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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. 

RARE Miles Davis & Thelonious Monk 7/7/69 NYC Schaefer Music Fest Ticket Stub!

This is also our first tape where Bitches Brew material makes up the majority of the set list, with the arrival of one of my personal favorites, “Spanish Key” – barely recognizable from its album counterpart. At this point, “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” had been in the set for a couple of months, and it shows – the arrangement is starting to coalesce and the length is now hovering around a sturdy 10 minutes (gone are the 17-minute explorations we heard at the Blue Coronet just a couple weeks before).

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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 Lost Quintet’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 the Miles Davis “Second” Great Quintet’s notoriously 1965 recordings at the same venue, the band 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.

Plugged Nickel, mid-60s | The marquee has some interesting s… | Flickr
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May 1969 Village Gate

Our second audience tape of 1969 is a brief snapshot from the Miles Davis Quintet’s late-May stretch at the Village Gate. But my god, what a show. Jack DeJohnette is absolutely ferocious behind the kit* and goes full-bore from the start – not necessarily overplaying but clearly pushing the rest of the band (even Miles) into supporting roles. The Miles Ahead database lists May 23 and 24 as the possible dates from which this recording originates, which amazingly means DeJohnette pulled double duty recording Joe Henderson’s Power to the People LP the afternoon of the 23rd.

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2.25.1969 Duffy’s Backstage

This February tape from Rochester, NY is the first recording with the Miles Davis Lost Quintet fully intact. Despite the fresh lineup, the performance sounds remarkably similar to what Davis’ “second great quintet” (Shorter, Hancock, Carter, Williams) was up to just a year before – it’s amazing to hear Corea and DeJohnette sound so restrained. Maybe it was the material (this is the last Miles recording I know of to include “So What”) or perhaps they were just trying to find their footing, but this is the closest this quintet ever came to playing it straight. Still, the second half of the tape (starting at 43:35) gets pretty wild, finishing up with a long stretch of freeform abstraction that was new turf even for Miles at this point.

Though the exact date of this recording is undetermined, (the band played a run of shows from February 25-March 2) the rear photo from In a Silent Way was shot on February 26th at the venue. 

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