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Album Review: Live in Europe 1967: Best of the Bootleg, Vol. 1 by Miles Davis
Fantastic, Based on 5 Critics
PopMatters - 100 Based on rating 10/10
1967 was a strange time for jazz music. John Coltrane died in July, leaving his followers in free-jazz floundering for a direction. Coltrane had, in a lot of ways, taken some of the jazz spotlight from Miles Davis sometime in the mid-60’s. His work the last few years of his life was strange and exciting, explosive and volatile, huge in its fury, in a time where life itself was volatile, unpredictable, subject to its own unpredictable ferocity.
Back when bootlegs carried the cachet of backwoods moonshine, collectors obsessed over the marvelous concerts on this DVD/three-CD set. Circa 1967, the jazz icon was still playing acoustic, and his final quintet would rejigger the standards and originals dramatically on a nightly basis. The set lists may have looked similar, but here’s proof they didn’t sound alike — and that they’ll still get you mighty high.
The Miles Davis quintet of the mid-to-late 1960s occupies a weird place in the trumpeter's canon. Critics (this one included) will tell you that it isn't just the best band Miles ever led, but one of the choicest small groups in jazz history. If you're not a jazz nerd, though, you may not know it existed. This is because the outfit-- rounded out by tenor saxist Wayne Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Tony Williams-- doesn't register on Miles' pop-cultural timeline.
Given the numerous times Miles Davis' official catalog has been issued, and the numerous live dates available, it's reasonable to question the necessity of a release with the subtitle Bootleg Series, Vol. 1. The answer, at least in this case, is a resounding "yes.
AROUND this time last year it became hard not to see the Miles Davis reissue juggernaut as a snake swallowing its own tail. What cinched the impression was the arrival of “The Genius of Miles Davis,” encompassing all of Davis’s output for Columbia. It wasn’t a bricklike compendium of albums — that had been done, with great fanfare, the previous year — but rather a stockpile of the eight multidisc sets released by Columbia/Legacy over the last 15 years.