Brilliant footage of the Miles Davis Quintet at peak power.
Between Feb. 1969 and Feb. 1970, Miles Davis released eight albums. Near the tail end of that amazing run, he went on a European tour.
At the time, Davis was in the middle of a profound transformation, one that was upending not only his improvisations and compositions, but his entire life. Recently single, he’d had a whirlwind affair with Cicely Tyson before getting married to Betty Mabry – who, under her married name Betty Davis, went on to release a trio of searing funk albums. They divorced a year later.
“I was changing my attitude about a lot of things, like the look of my wardrobe. I was working all these clubs where there was a lot of smoke, and it would get in the fabric of my suits,” Davis wrote in “Miles,” his autobiography (with Quincy Troupe). “Plus, everyone was starting to dress a little looser at concerts, at least the rock musicians were, and that might have affected me. Everybody was into blackness, you know, the black consciousness movement, and so a lot of African and Indian fabrics were being worn. I started wearing African dashikis and robes and looser clothes plus a lot of Indian tops by this guy named Hernando, who was from Argentina and who had a place in Greenwich Village. That’s where Jimi Hendrix bought most of his clothes.”
You can hear it in the music he was making. Though he wasn’t speaking in metaphors when discussing his stage wear, Davis’ sound was, like his outfits, “a little looser.”
“I had moved away from the cool Brooks Brothers look and into this other thing,” he wrote, “which for me was more what was happening with the times.”
Those shifts are apparent in the Copenhagen concert, which the Davis estate recently uploaded to YouTube. The set teams the trumpeter with his quintet, which at the time featured Chick Corea (piano), Dave Holland (bass), Wayne Shorter (sax), Jack DeJohnette (drums).
As wild as Davis’ peacocking wardrobe, the performance is a mesmerizing look at a genius evolving in real time.