I LOVE MILES

(BUT NOT ALL HIS BOOTS)

I love Miles Davis. Whether as a contributing midwife to the Birth of the Cool, the ultra-hip trumpeter of the late 50s, the restless innovator of the 60s, or inspiring bandleader and outta-space musician of the 70s, his is an endlessly varied—and indeed endless—catalogue. If you are browsing a shop or on-line store and can’t think of anything you really want (other than to buy an album), then the Miles section is sure to throw up something interesting and tasty.

The proof of this rubric is demonstrated in the Vinyl Connection spreadsheet, where no less than seventy-seven titles appear. That’s one percent of the entire collection, and fifty percent more than the nearest competitor.* Yet it is but a selection of all releases bearing the jazz trumpeter’s name.

As a marker of quality, most of the albums on the VC shelves have been enjoyed multiple times and matched to different moods; they are not simply taking up shelf space. What’s more, with the commitment—some might say avarice—of the Miles Davis re-issue industry, there are always new and often intriguing releases entering the marketplace for completists, fans and even the jazz-curious to check-out.

One unexpected gem uncovered by the vault archeologists at Sony-Columbia was the 2013 release Live In Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 by the Miles Davis Quintet. Comprising three CDs and a DVD, this performance document is an absolute corker.

Wayne Shorter (tenor and soprano sax), Chick Corea (electric piano and piano), Dave Holland (bass) and Jack De Johnette (drums) are burning both as individual soloists and as band members of extreme intuition. Hot and cool, soaring and scuzzy, tight and explosive; the entire band is alight. The fact that the ‘third’ quintet was not really recorded in the studio makes this set particularly juicy for jazz fans. Material is drawn from a number of albums including Milestones and Bitches Brew and shows how Miles’ increasing use of electric instruments was pointing towards the studio albums just around the corner (the electrifying Jack Johnson, for example).

Fans of Chick Corea (like your correspondent) will love this set; the young pianist is all over it. Whether testing the outer limits of his electric piano, adding rhythmic underpinning or interacting with the other musicians, Corea is in absolutely scintillating form. But then, so is everyone else on Live In Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2.

Seemed to me that this was one archival series was worth watching.

So when, earlier this year, I read about a 3LP vinyl release of Miles Davis Quintet Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series Vol. 5, it didn’t take many late night trawling sessions before an order was placed. The sticker said “Celebrates the 50th anniversary of Miles Smiles”—a truly great jazz album released in 1967—and the band comprised Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. Nuff’ said.

Or perhaps not. It was in no way clear that the previously unreleased “session recordings” mentioned on the cover sticker were in fact rehearsal tapes. Endless repetitive fragments of the band practising the pieces.

It sounds like this:

Ba-be-ba ba, ba-biddy-ba

Pause

Ba-be-ba ba ba ba-biddy-ba  ba

Pause

Ba-be-ba ba, ba-biddy-

Pause

Riveting, eh?

Most of the entire three LP set comprises these minuscule morsels, of conceivable interest only to an obsessed jazz musician, the type who would fight to win an auction for Miles Davis’ soiled trumpet-cleaning rag or crumbs from his lunchtime snack box.

Now get this: the CD version (also a triple, but much longer) includes Master Takes, thus providing the cooked meal to enjoy after witnessing the kitchen preparation. These finished dishes are omitted from the vinyl, adding major insult to injury.

This is without doubt one of the most exploitative and disappointing releases I’ve suckered myself into forking out serious money for.#

The conclusion is clear. No matter when or where you are browsing, irrespective of how many glasses of red you have consumed, notwithstanding the countless lonely hours since your last album purchase… DO  YOUR  RESEARCH.

This was a Public Service Announcement** from Vinyl Connection.

I’m off to play Live In Europe: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 now. On CD.

 

*  Forty-nine entries for Pink Floyd, in case you were wondering.

#  There are several others, naturally, but writing a series would be too depressing.

**  aka Spleen Venting Exercise

22 comments

  1. As someone that owns and covets Davis’ uneaten Dairylea Lunchables from 1967, I have to say this set sounds fascinating.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yep. Volume 2 is the biz. Shame about the other one.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oooft. A perfect example of what record labels refer to as ‘you can sell anything on vinyl’.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m fascinated by that spreadsheet (and grateful you added the footnote as to who was #2!) – do you have it separated into different worksheets by artist, sorted chronologically?
    Music + spreadsheets, these are a few of my favourite things!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tried to paste a section of the catalogue into the Pages doc, but without success, Geoff. As to the history of VC music and spreadsheets, it all began a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

      Original document created on a Mac Classic using Filemaker, not long after the invention of the wheel.
      Transferred to Excel when that first computer had a massive stroke and died. (Yay for floppy disc backup!)
      Eventually changed to Numbers, one single sheet with the following columns:
      1 First name/The or other article
      2 Surname / Band name
      3 Album title
      4 Year of release
      5 Format-CD (with a number preceding the C to indicate multi-disc sets, e.g.: 4C
      6 Format-Vinyl (separated from CDs to allow sorting by medium)
      7 Other info
      If I knew how to use Numbers (or any spreadsheet actually), I’d have a second page sorted chronologically by Col 4. As it is, I periodically save a chronological version as a separate doc.
      Still awake?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Not just awake Bruce, riveted!
        I’ve got my 1001 list with a worksheet per decade, listed in the order they appear in the book, and then a summary page (full of ‘if’ statements linked to the decade sheets) to update the progress when I post a review! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        1. For your project, ‘by decade’ sounds sensible. I notice you shake up the chronological order of your posts to maintain interest, which seems a good idea. I know that I have very few of the 50s or 00s albums!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Ouch. I can’t wait for Vol.6 which I suspect will be a 4 disc set of Wayne Shorter humming show tunes in the shower. I feel your pain.

    The sticky note on the back of the LP sleeve reminds me of when my friends and I, being naughty students, used to add our own reviews (neatly typed) onto the backs of disappointing videos we had rented; which mysteriously all seemed to be erotic thrillers. The best were my friend’s review of a film with a titillating cover/title ‘Almost a Virgin’, which simply read ‘No story, no tits – someone here got shafted’ and my own effort, can’t remember the film, ‘I’d rather watch a fat man sh*tting in a perspex bucket, than see this again’. Halcyon days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The phrase ‘diminishing returns’ springs to mind.
      Talking of returns (as in VHS tapes), I always KNEW you were a secret anarchist. You naughty boy.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This sounds like a really great set. My own Miles collection is embarrassing: “Birth of the Cool” and “Miles & Quincy Live at Montreux.” Both great albums, but just two. Not even “Bitches Brew,” which was always my personal favorite. As Bill Clinton used to say, “We can do better.” Your post inspires me to do that just that, Bruce. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always delighted to be part of the industry of human happiness, Marty! After completing this post yesterday I did begin roughing out a ‘Miles Davis Top 10 For The Curious’. But don’t hold your breath. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Good post, thanks Bruce.
    Luckily, I borrowed Vol. 5 from the library. I felt a bit whoosie returning it without having persevered through all the talky bits.
    Incidentally, your recent post on reasons for buying made me look at my annual budget (you might recall that my mention of the concept of having a budget for buying albums made you a little whoozi) and it was exhausted as of the of end September. Mind you, it was fucked by October first (by Coltrane’s Crescent). Now I wonder how long it will remain in a merely fucked condition, what with your mention of …Vol 2. It sounds like it is a rippa.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, you’ve neatly summarised the purpose of a budget, DD. To demonstrate how to go boldly where no music lover has gone before.

      BTW, if your Library borrow was the CD (as I assume), then at least you got the Master takes. Still fuming about what a cynical con Vol 5 was. But as you say, Vol.2 is quite extraordinary. As is Crescent. Enjoy (and don’t think about the B word).

      Like

      1. As I said to my boss at Shell once, ‘if we don’t break the budget, how are we going to convince them we really need more for next year?’
        (He was not convinced. Will Z be? … I am keeping the word ‘shoes’ in reserve.).

        Liked by 1 person

        1. NB for researchers- is on YouTube

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m sure you have more wins than losses in your record adventures but those kinds of deals are a kick in the nuts. The Live in Europe Vol 2 sounds very good. CB’s wheels are turning. I just did a take on RTF’s ‘Hymn of the 7th Galaxy’. Miles is second only to Duke in my record pile.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Hymn’ is great – intense and energetic. In fact I might must spin it now to rev up for the day!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A lot of Bitches Brew in that one along with Mahavishnu Orchestra. But it has it’s own stamp. Great album. It was a logical choice back then. Still is.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting take on the studio outtakes, Bruce – but I have to say, as a giant fan of the Wayne/Tony/Ron/Herbie band, I was gripped by the studio banter and rehearsal clips. Maybe it’s a ‘muso’ thing but I loved hearing Miles trying to explain to Ron Carter what to play on ‘Freedom Jazz Dance’ and also how they came to do ‘Nefertiti’ without any solos, etc etc. But I know what you mean and it’s quite possible that stuff can only be listened to once.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that some studio chat is interesting (once or twice), and that hearing Miles’ strangulated growl is always fascinating, but for a non-muso, far too little cereal in far too big a box.

      Like

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