Amazing what people find lurking in their wardrobes, filing cabinets, garages, whatever. Somewhere in the world I'm still holding out for a trove of Clash live recordings, stashed away in the late seventies by some substance-addled punk. In the meantime, the Miles recordings keep flowing.
As with the arrival of Bitches Brew Live, the last Miles CD to arrive en la casa therealus from Sony, La Rubia, my long-suffering significant other, gives a knowing look. After all, look at the track titles here. Isn't that one on at least half a dozen other CDs? And that one? And so on?
Yep. But you Miles savants know like I do that a title signifies nothing. There's a brief statement of a recognised tune, a flourish on the trumpet, and the band go careering off in a new direction. Ninety per cent of what you hear on CD 1 of this set you won't hear on CD 2, and so on, although the Bitches Brew material is a little closer to the studio versions than it becomes a year later.
And then occasionally they really surprise you and stick with a tune for a few minutes, as with Nefertiti, though played here about a quarter faster than on the eponymous album. But it's a little like suddenly seeing a familiar face in a dream. Something instantly recognisable. But then it's gone again.
Also like in a dream what appears is sometimes a face you never thought you'd see again. So in amongst the new fusion-oriented tunes and electric extemporisation are such gems as Footprints, `Round Midnight, I Fall In Love Too Easily and No Blues. And at the end of CD 1 there is a symbolic fusion of the old closer and the new closer, The Theme and Sanctuary. There is, in short, something for everybody. Except, of course, the purists. But to show how fast things were moving at the time, at the Fillmore dates a few months later, in spring 1970, most of the old tunes had gone.
One of the stand-out features of the set is the rhythm section, and especially Holland and DeJohnette, whose thunderous backing drives proceedings like a cattle prod at times. Corea is excellent: a little less funky, a little more delicate in the main than Keith Jarrett, to be heard a year later at the Isle of Wight festival (the main feature on the Bitches Live set). And Shorter is at his most dynamic, especially on the DVD, where it's possible to actually see him winding himself up like a spring before letting rip (and remarkably, you can hear just the same on Without A Net, recently released by the now octogenarian).
But also audible throughout is the clarity of Miles's playing and musical vision. Here he is on the cusp of a major shift in musical styles, and that knowledge is truly awe-inspiring. Takes your breath away.
The quality of all the recordings is superb (I have to agree with the other reviewer who says "Bootleg" is a very misleading title - there were no substance-addled punks involved in this enterprise), and the DVD especially is worth seeing. The colour and clarity are remarkable given the recording's vintage. It could have been made last week.
Inspired by this, I went ahead and ordered Volume 1 (more knowing looks from La Rubia). But although I've long given up on the appearance of more Clash live recordings, I'm still hopeful that Volume 4 of this series is unheard recordings from 1973-4 (Volume 3 has to be from 1970-2), still sadly underrepresented on my shelves.