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Published: 2015/10/20
by Ron Hart

Miles Davis
Miles Davis At Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4

Columbia-Legacy

For those who follow the spirit of Miles Davis on Facebook, recent remarks from a couple of music critics in regards to the posthumous catalog of the late and sorely missed trumpet icon in the context of this latest (and greatest) chapter of the ongoing Bootleg Series project have gotten fans, friends and family members of Miles rightfully riled up.

To these folks I say this: Please pay no mind to these writers, especially in regards to this amazing anthology of the Chief and his three-decade run as one of the main attractions of the Newport Jazz Festival. Chances are these dudes didn’t even listen to the set straight through, plus they are painfully unaware of the extremely short list of music greats you just don’t trash or you wind up looking foolish. You don’ t bag on Bach. You don’t bag on The Beatles. And you sure as hell don’t bang on the man who gave birth to the cool. For real.

Let’s pinpoint a couple of key performances from this fourth volume of the Miles Davis Bootleg Series that would turn any writer who had even an ounce of genuine, primal love for the jazz idiom would turn that muthafucka into a puddle of goo on the floor. The first example is on Disc One, where Miles was a member of a super session on stage featuring Gerry Mulligan on sax and Thelonious Monk on piano for his debut appearance on July 15, 1955, one that led to his signing to Columbia Records to boot. That version of “Hackensack” delivering such a magnificent chill across the hot summer sky of Eisenhower’s America? Come on now…

Then, on the third disc, you’ve got that ’73 set from his double electric guitar quintet with Pete Cosey and Reggie Lucas on either side of the man with the horn when Newport went overseas to Berlin, Germany. The 11-minute run through “Turnaroundphrase”, where Cosey and Lucas lock heads like a pair of bull moose in the wilderness of Quebec, they create a jazz noise far more extreme than what went down on Dark Magus, this sounds like Mahavishnu’s Birds of Fire crash landing into Sonic Youth’s “Death Valley ’69”. People made a thing about Dylan going electric at Newport in ’65. But in 1973, Miles didn’t just plug in; he aimed to blow up the whole damn stage. And he did.

I can go on and on, quite honestly. The ’66 and ’67 appearances of the “Second Great Quintet”. The rare capture of the Keith Jarrett-led 1971 ensemble. The ’58 show with Coltrane, Cannonball, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb that’s already been released, mind you, but is given a whole new listening experience when brought together in succession within the framework of this anthology.

So to my Miles people, in reference to those hacks trying to make some kind of name for themselves by criticizing the output of the Davis family estate, they know fuck all, pardon my French. I myself personally cannot wait for what’s next, and appreciate all of the treasures the family has bestowed upon the multitude of jazz fans who love Miles Davis and all he brought to this world.

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