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Smeary, I was going to say. But smeary implies an overall indifference to control. This stuff, collected from 1969 in Europe, demonstrates control on multiple levels — if it achieves smeariness, it does so if its own volition, and rightly juxtaposed into a protean master statement. Like Davis’s previous quintet, the one captured on the live set from 1967, this fivesome structures a set as a living thing, shorn of between-piece breaks and flagellating ever-agitated through the sea of possibility. Miles would get real quiet soon after this, but not for Europe.

Chick Corea stuck mostly to electric piano; when he lays out on the third disc after that piano blew up (giving out a few presciently-avant-garde distortion blobs), the others fold into each other to compensate. On acoustic piano, the flavor’s stimulatingly, and frustratingly, cooler, distant. His electric work rings out like a giant picking its teeth with a stepladder-sized metal comb; brazen, confident, insouciant.

And even more than ’67, this music quickly started running itself. Davis shows rare form technically; too soon, he’d make himself sparse. Wayne Shorter’s tenor and soprano sax work over phrases, long and short, like answers to physics problems. Dave Holland’s bass hip-checks Corea for a tasty match-licks duet. Drummer Jack DeJohnette favors his skins over his cymbals, unlike predecessor Tony Williams, sometimes kicking ass, sometimes getting knocked sideways. Smeary, so to speak: the locomotion of a strange animal. The tracks of new life.

  • Album: Live In Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2
  • Artist: Miles Davis
  • Label: Sony Legacy
  • Songs: Disc 1: (1) Introduction by Andre Francis (2) Directions (3) Miles Runs The Voodoo Down (4) Milestones (5) Footprints (6) ‘Round Midnight (7) It’s About That Time (8) Sanctuary (9) The Theme; Disc 2: (1) Introduction by Andre Francis (2) Directions (3) Spanish Key (4) I Fall In Love Too Easily (5) Masqualero (6) Miles Runs The Voodoo Down (7) No Blues (8) Nefertiti (9) Sanctuary (10) The Theme; Disc 3: (1) Introduction by George Wein (2) Bitches Brew (3) Paraphernalia (4) Nefertiti (5) Masqualero (incomplete) (6) This; DVD: (1) Introduction by John O’Brien-Docker (2) Directions (3) Bitches Brew (4) It’s About That Time (5) I Fall In Love Too Easily (6) Sanctuary (7) The Theme.
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