Rare Miles Davis Live Recordings Capture the Jazz Musician at the Height of His Powers

Very ear­ly in his career as a band­leader, Miles Davis devel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for a too-cool per­sona on stage. Whether turn­ing his back on the crowd or walk­ing off­stage while his side­men soloed, his refusal to cater to audi­ence expec­ta­tions only enhanced his mys­tique. What­ev­er fans and crit­ics made of Miles’ seem­ing contempt—political state­ment, eccen­tric­i­ty, or daz­zling egotism—his live play­ing trans­fixed those who had the priv­i­lege to see him and con­sis­tent­ly drew the best play­ers in his­to­ry into his orbit.

The six­ties saw him at the peak of his pow­ers as a live per­former. He hit the pop charts in the ear­ly part of the decade with the 1962 two-LP set In Per­son, record­ed over two nights at the Black­hawk in San Fran­cis­co. The very next month he record­ed the Gram­my-nom­i­nat­ed Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall with an orches­tra led by Gil Evans. In 2007, a never‑before released live gem from the 1963 Mon­terey Jazz Fes­ti­val thrilled fans (lis­ten to “So What” from that record­ing above). All of these record­ings cap­ture Davis dur­ing his “tran­si­tion peri­od,” between his first and sec­ond “great quin­tets” (which fea­tured John Coltrane and Wayne Short­er on sax, respec­tive­ly).

Direct­ly above, hear a less­er-known, offi­cial­ly unre­leased record­ing from that tran­si­tion­al peri­od. Cap­tured by French pub­lic broad­cast­ing com­pa­ny ORFT, the ses­sions took place at the Juan-Les-Pins Fes­ti­val in Antibes in July 26–28, 1963, just a few months before Mon­terey. Davis is backed here by the same ensem­ble: George Cole­man on tenor sax, Her­bie Han­cock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and (then sev­en­teen-year-old) Tony Williams on drums. These record­ings rep­re­sent alter­nates and out­takes from the record orig­i­nal­ly released in ’64 as In Europe, reis­sued in 1989 as Miles in Antibes. The full track­list (below) is book­end­ed by two ver­sions of Kind of Blue open­er “So What,” and it’s inter­est­ing to com­pare these wild­ly fre­net­ic ’63 live iter­a­tions from Mon­terey and Antibes to the clas­sic of laid-back cool from the late 50s.

1. So What (July 26, 1963)

2  Stel­la By Starlight (July 26)

3. Sev­en Steps To Heav­en – Walkin’ (July 26)

4. If I were a Bell (July 28, 1963)

5. So What (July 28)

Davis’ first and sec­ond “great quin­tets” are per­haps his most-loved groups. How­ev­er, the short-lived 1963 ensem­ble above cer­tain­ly pushed him in a new direc­tion. For anoth­er piv­otal moment of tran­si­tion, watch the 1969 return to the Juan-Les-Pins Jazz Fest in the video below, which shows Davis again mov­ing in a very dif­fer­ent direc­tion, pre­sag­ing his ’70s swerves into acid rock and funk. This per­for­mance fea­tures anoth­er all-star ensem­ble, with Wayne Short­er on tenor and sopra­no sax, Chick Corea on elec­tric piano, Dave Hol­land on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums.

via Past Dai­ly

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Miles Davis Sto­ry, the Defin­i­tive Film Biog­ra­phy of a Jazz Leg­end

Miles Davis and His ‘Sec­ond Great Quin­tet,’ Filmed Live in Europe, 1967

‘The Sound of Miles Davis’: Clas­sic 1959 Per­for­mance with John Coltrane

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him @jdmagness

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