MILES DAVIS AND JOHN COLTRANE-THE FINAL TOUR: THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 6.

Miles Davis and John Coltrane-The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6.

Label: Sony Music.

After Miles Davis released his seminal album Kind Of Blue on August the ’17th’ 1959, the sextet embarked upon a lengthy tour, which allowed jazz fans to witness one of the legendary bands at the peak of their powers. Sadly, nothing lasts forever, and within a year all wasn’t well within Miles Davis’ band. 

Tenor saxophonist John Coltrane who had played an important role in the sound and success of Kind Of Blue, had released his fifth and Atlantic Records’ debut Giant Steps on January the ’27th’ 1960. It was a game-changer for John Coltrane, who had written all the tracks on Giant Steps which was his breakthrough album as bandleader. With John Coltrane’s star was in the ascendancy after releasing his first classic album, he was reluctant to continue in his role as sideman to Miles Davis. Deep down, John  Coltrane knew that the time had come to leave Miles Davis’ band and concentrate on leading his own band?

Even Miles Davis realised that it wouldn’t be long before John Coltrane left the sextet to form his own band. However, jazz impresario Norman Granz had a booked Miles Davies to play a three-week European tour, with sold out shows in Paris, Stockholm and Copenhagen which are featured on  The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6 which was recently released by Sony Music and where Miles Davis and John Coltrane receive equal billing. However, back in 1960, Miles Davis band was receiving star billing.

This was the first tour that Miles Davis would play with his own band, and he wanted and needed John Coltrane in his quintet. A reluctant John Coltrane agreed, and travelled with Miles Davis’ band to Europe in the spring of 1960. By then, Miles Davis and John Coltrane were two giants of jazz, albeit with very different styles. Proof of that were their most recent classic albums. 

Kind Of Blue which was recorded by Miles Davis’ sextet in the spring of 1959, and nowadays is regarded as the  greatest modal jazz album ever recorded. The music is much more restrained, subtle and melodically innovative. Its architect Miles Davis later called Kind Of Blue: “a return to melody.” This was very different to the album that was released six months later.

This was John Coltrane’s first classic album Giant Steps, which features his exemplary melodic phrasing which later, became known as “sheets of sound,” and also his third-related chord movements that nowadays are known as “Coltrane changes.” Giant Steps which was a genre-defying opus, and just two months after its release, a reluctant John Coltrane travelled to Europe with Miles Davis’ band.

Joining Miles Davis on his European tour that took place in March 1969, was a rhythm section of drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Paul Chambers and pianist Wynton Kelly, who had all played on Kind Of Blue. However, Wynton Kelly who at the time was the pianist in Miles Davis band, only featured on one track with Bill Evans returning and playing on four of the five tracks. However, neither  Bill Evans nor Julian Cannonball Adderley made the trip to Europe. Instead, Miles Davis lead a septet.

Having arrived in Europe, Miles Davis’ European tour was due to begin in Paris, France on the ‘21st’ of March, and would last three weeks, ending on the ‘10th’ of April 1960. Given the success of Kind Of Blue, it was no surprise that many of the concerts on the European tour had already sold out when the band arrived in Europe. However, concerts in Paris, Stockholm and Copenhagen were being recorded and would be broadcast on the national radio stations, and this had the potential to introduce Miles Davis’ music to a huge audience. Straight away, though, there was a problem.

From the moment that the band arrived in Europe, there was tension between Miles Davis and John Coltrane, who had reluctantly agreed to make the trip. By then, he knew he had outgrown his role as Miles Davis’ sideman and was ready to lead his own band. The tension between the two men can even be heard on Miles Davis and John Coltrane-The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6.

Five concerts are featured on The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6, including the first two concerts on the tour, which took place at the Olympia, in Paris on the ‘21st’ of March 1960. After that, Miles Davis and his band travelled to Stockholm, Sweden, and played two concerts at the Konserthuset on the ‘22nd’ of March 1960. The fifth concert was in at the Tivolis Koncertsal, Copenhagen, in Denmark, on the ‘24th’ of March 1960. During these five concerts where are documented on the four discs on The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6, there’s an air of tension between Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

Meanwhile, Miles Davis was at a musical crossroads by the time he took to the stage at the Olympia, in Paris on the ‘21st’ of March 1960 and received rapturous reception. He wanted to continue to further explore the modal jazz of Kind Of Blue, but knew that this wouldn’t please everyone. Many who would come to see him during his European tour wanted to hear tracks from his 1957 hard bop classic ‘Round About Midnight. Miles Davis knew was going to be all things to all men and women over the next three weeks. 

Disc One.

After the applause died down, Miles Davis’ trumpet takes centre-stage on the ballad All Of You from ‘Round About Midnight, which gives way to the modal jazz of So What. Soon, John Coltrane is straining at the leash, as if no longer willing to play second fiddle to Miles Davies. He plays with speed, freedom, fluidity and an inventiveness during this thirteen minute epic. Closing the first Paris concert is On Green Dolphin Street where the tension between the two giants of jazz continues to simmer, and in a way, brings the best out in the men. The band receives a standing ovation from an audience blissfully unaware of the tension between Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

The second Paris concert opens with the hard bop of Walkin’ which was the title-track to the 1957 album by the Miles Davis All Stars. Sometimes, John Coltrane over-blows, which was something many free jazz musicians were doing by 1960. This was something John Coltrane embraced as music evolved and he embraced a much freer sound.

Disc Two.

After opening the second Paris concert with Walkin’, Miles Davis revisits Bye Bye Blackbird, and initially stays true to the original. Soon, John Coltrane starts to stretch his legs and plays with fluidity, freedom, power and invention adding flamboyant flourishes as this standard is stretched to fourteen majestic minutes. Miles Davis’ trumpet takes centre-stage on ‘Round Midnight, where a truce seems to have been declared as the two titans of jazz compliment each other on what was one of the highlights of the two Paris concerts. The truce continues on the hard bop of Oleo which featured on Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet in 1958, where both men play with a fluidity. However, it’s John Coltrane that steals the show, before the baton passes to Miles Davis on The Theme from his 1958 album Workin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet. Although it lasts less than a minute, it’s a tantalising taste of a jazz legend at the peak of his powers.

The remainder of disc two features the concert was at the Tivolis Koncertsal, Copenhagen, in Denmark, on the ‘24th’ of March 1960. After Norman Granz introduces the band, they launch into a set that was similar to the one they played in Paris three nights earlier. It opens with So What where John Coltrane quickly takes centre-stage and plays a starring role. Occasionally he over-blows and produces a dissonant, primal sound that provides a contrast to Miles Davis’ more restrained style. Still, though, there’s a degree of tension which disappears On Dolphin Street, as the band raise their game becoming one. Then on All Blues from Miles Davis’ from Kind Of Blue, is at his innovative best John Coltrane constantly overblowing his saxophone, which veers between dissonant and melodic as he embraces the freer style of playing. Later, pianist Wynton Kelly delivers a flawless solo, and plays his part in the successful modal reinvention of All Blues which becomes a sixteen minute opus. After that, The Theme closes the show and once again, Miles Davis and his band receive a standing ovation.

Disc Three.

After playing Paris, Miles Davis and his band had travelled to Stockholm, Sweden, where they played two concerts at the Konserthuset on the ‘22nd’ of March 1960. Again, Norman Granz introduces the band, before they once again open the show with So What and play at double time during what’s a breathtaking performance. The tempo drops on Fran Dance where Wynton Kelly’s piano proves the perfect foil and later, replacement for Miles Davis’ trumpet. It takes centre-stage as Walkin’ unfolds, before  John Coltrane mostly eschews his free jazz stylings while piano leaves space for the horns to play a starring role. This they do during what’s arguably the best version of Walkin’. After that, the familiar strains of The Theme close the show.

Disc Four.

Most of disc four features the second show at the Konserthuset in Stockholm, Sweden, on the ‘22nd’ of March 1960, the band launch into a spellbinding and sprawling version of So What, where John Coltrane and Wynton Kelly play starring roles, as they deliver breathtaking solos. Flourishes of Wynton Kelly’s piano open On Green Dolphin Street, before each and every member of the band showcase their skills as the arrangement ebbs and flows as it reveals its secrets, subtleties and surprises. However, it’s the horns, and especially John Coltrane’s tenor saxophone, and later the piano that play leading roles and are reminder of a band at the peak of their powers. It’s a similar case All Blues, where the piano sets the scene for Miles Davis and then John Coltrane who plays as if his very life depended on it. He plays with speed, fluidity and control, and also power and passion, and even when he over-blows the music is still melodic. Later the baton passes to Wynton Kelly and Miles Davis who both play their part in this modal jazz opus. After that, The Theme closes the show, and Miles Davis and his band take a bow for the fourth time.

Following the second Stockholm concert is a six-minute interview with John Coltrane that took place during the Spring 1960 Jazz At The Philharmonic Tour. However, the interview is a strange inclusion, and seems out-of-place on this landmark live album.

Not long after tour ended on the ‘10th’ of April 1960, John Coltrane parted company with Miles Davis and founded his first great quartet. As a parting gift, Miles Davis gave John Coltrane the soprano saxophone that he would use when he later embraced spiritual jazz. That was all in the future.

The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6 which was recently released by Sony Music documents what was the end of an era for Miles Davis and John Coltrane. He had been a member of Miles Davis’ band for several years, but after John Coltrane recorded his classic album Giant Steps, he realised that he had outgrown his employer. By then, the two musicians were moving in different directions musically, with Miles Davis continuing to explore modal jazz while John Coltrane embraced free jazz. This is apparent on The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6 where John Coltrane’s free jazz stylings can be heard throughout the five concerts. 

Elsewhere on The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6 Miles Davis and his band switch between modal jazz and the hard bop he pioneered a few years earlier on albums like Kind Of Blue and ‘Round About Midnight. However, that was the past for Miles Davis, although he played tracks from both albums as he knew that was what many members of the audience wanted to hear. Sometimes, he stayed true to the original, other times they were reinvented and taken in a new direction by a truly talented band. Ironically, the 1960 spring European tour was the first tour that Miles Davis would play with his own band. Sadly, when he returned to Europe later in 1960 there was no sign of John Coltrane, who had made the move from sideman to bandleader. However, the four discs on The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6 feature a tantalising taste of this remarkable band at the peak of their powers, despite the tension between Miles Davis and John Coltrane which sometimes, seemed to drive the septet to even greater heights.

Miles Davis and John Coltrane-The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Volume 6.

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