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Album Review: Miles Davis at Newport: 1955-1975 The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4 by Miles Davis
Exceptionally Good, Based on 10 Critics
The Observer (UK) - 100 Based on rating 5/5
Launched in 1954, the Newport jazz festival was the high spot of the jazz year for several decades. Broadcast worldwide by Voice of America, and later touring abroad, it virtually defined jazz for an international audience. These were also the years when Miles Davis did his best work, his style changing at bewildering speed as his stature grew. These four CDs of largely unreleased material, recorded live, catch him at seven points in this dynamic progress – beginning as one of an “all-star” jam session, through the classic quintets with John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock etc, to later pieces such as Bitches Brewand Mtume.
Perhaps no other recording better illustrates how Miles Davis bridged the gap between jazz’s old guard and its younger visionaries than Miles Davis at Newport: 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4. Spanning 20 years in just under five hours of largely unreleased live performances, At Newport finds a young Miles seated among some of bop and post-bop’s biggest names.
New York Daily News (Jim Faber) - 100 Based on rating 5/5
The world can’t get enough music from Miles Davis. Today, Legacy Records will release the 18th (!) box set from the seemingly depthless trove of the legendary trumpeter. That’s more boxes than any other legend — beyond even Frank Sinatra, who boasts 16, and Bob Dylan with 15. It’s clear why Legacy keeps filling the aisles with Miles.
Every five years after Miles Davis hit New York in 1944, he instigated new forms of musical insurgency. Each genre we love today bears his expansive influence, not least because Davis was that rare artist who wrecked us as much with the notes he didn't play as with those he did. Like the late B.B. King, the trumpeter knew his tone was molten and that one hot, bent blurt from him could slay audiences more efficiently than other bozos' full metal jackets.
Even the most optimistic fan might not have been able to foresee the long-term vitality of Miles Davis' posthumous catalog. Thanks to multi-disc box sets that have unearthed all the (thrilling) studio sessions that went into iconic fusion albums such as In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, Jack Johnson, and On the Corner—as well as Columbia's more recent focus on unissued live performances in its Miles Davis Bootleg Series—the trumpeter-composer has remained an ever-renewable resource in the catalog. (If the branding reminds you of the label's back-pages approach to Bob Dylan, you're not wrong.
When Miles Davis agreed to join the bill of promoter George Wein’s Newport Jazz Festival, staged on Rhode Island in 1955, little did he know that his appearance there would drastically change the trajectory of his career and help transform him into an iconic figure. Prior to that, Davis was something of a perennial rising star, despite the fact that he’d been present at the birth of bebop in the 40s and helped to create the “cool jazz” aesthetic later in the same decade; yet, somehow, he’d never quite become prominent or important enough to register on the radar of the public at large. As Miles wrote in his autobiography: “I think my name in the clubs was still shit and a lot of the critics probably still thought I was a junkie.
Miles Davis was one of the Newport Jazz festival’s favourite guests over the years, and Newport was where, in 1955, he kickstarted a faltering, heroin-delayed career with a subtly paced reading of Thelonious Monk’s Round Midnight. The performance put him on the road to stardom. This four-CD box features 20 years of Davis’s Newport gigs, from that 1955 epiphany alongside Monk himself (a gig introduced by none other than Duke Ellington), through the freebop of the great 1950s and 60s quintets, into sets from 73 and 75, and winding up with a gritty electric group including Keith Jarrett on keys and Davis on cat-wailing wah-wah trumpet in 1971.
The fourth volume in the ongoing Miles Davis live Bootleg Series, 2015's Miles Davis at Newport: 1955-1975 is a four-disc anthology that brings together all of the legendary trumpeter's live recordings captured at the storied Newport Jazz Festival. Founded by organizer George Wein in 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival grew into one of the premier music festivals in the world, thanks in no small part to Wein's longstanding association with Davis. With Wein's support and famous dedication to encouraging artistic experimentation, Davis would return to the festival throughout the most creatively vital years of his career.
Miles Davis—Miles Davis at Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Columbia/Legacy)In this nation, corporations are people; it’s the law of the land. But what if corporations, while sentient, were something other than human? Suppose that the true face of Sony, which owns Columbia/Legacy (wait a minute — if corporations can own each other, isn’t that slavery?), is not some businessman in a suit, but that web-footed, golden-wigged, mutant-J.
The Newport Jazz Festival began in 1954 and it went on to impact both the music it presented and it jumpstarted the whole concept of live music festivals. It was there, in the third year, that Duke Ellington’s career came back to life in large part because of the performance of “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue,” with saxophonist Paul Gonsalves’ crowd-slaying 27-chorus solo. Launched by visionary club owner George Wein — who still has a hand in it to this day — the festival made the world safe (so to speak) for the Bonnaroos and Lollapaloozas that would follow years later.