Blue notes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 November, 2011, 12:00am


In recent years hundreds of hours of studio outtakes and previously unreleased concert recordings by the late Miles Davis have been made available, usually in expensive box sets. The majority of the outtakes are a testament to the good taste of the producers who originally opted to leave them in the tape vault. The live recordings are another matter, and some revelatory performances have come to light - notably the seven-disc Complete Live at The Plugged Nickel recordings from 1965.

Two new collections of concert performances have just been released - one on CD and DVD, the other an all-DVD set.

Miles Davis Live in Europe 1967 (Sony) is the first volume in a Miles Davis 'Bootleg' series. This three CD, one DVD collection captures the classic 1960s quintet, with Herbie Hancock on piano, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums, at their magical best.

'The Second Great Quintet', as this band was often called, was the longest lived of Davis' small groups, and by 1967 had been together for more than two years. They could read each other's minds.

The DVD quality is relatively poor but the sound on the CDs is more than respectable. A single disc highlights compilation from this set is also available.

The 10-disc Definitive Miles Davis at Montreux DVD Collection (Evosound/Eagle Rock), which chronicles his appearances at the Swiss jazz festival from 1973 to 1991, also has a highlights disc - which is probably all most jazz lovers will need. It's difficult to argue that anything from Davis after 1973 is as good as his best work from either the 1950s or 60s, but it is good to have these performances on DVD.

You need to see them as well as hear them to understand what it was about Davis in concert during those years that justified the acclaim. His sheer presence was astonishing.

Compelling in a different way are two 1959 Gil Evans arrangements played at his last Montreux appearance in 1991. Davis hadn't long to go, and from his sometimes faltering but heartfelt playing, you know he knew it.

Take Three

Three classic studio albums from Davis' 'Second Great Quintet'.

E.S.P. (1965, Columbia): The extraordinary quintet makes its assured debut, on a set consisting solely of original tunes composed by members of the band.

Nefertiti (1968, Columbia): Hancock and Shorter dominate as composers on an album on which all the players take their first steps towards jazz fusion.

Miles in the Sky (1968, Columbia): Miles turns up the voltage as Hancock and Carter double on acoustic and electric piano and bass.