EXCERPT FROM LINER NOTES FROM ‘Miles Davis Quintet – Live In Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol.1’
I once told Miles, ‘when you had Herbie, Wayne, Tony and Ron on tour in Europe, I wouldn’t have dared to get on the bandstand with you.’ That group was not ahead of its time. They were the time.
— Jazz impresario George Wein, producer of the 1967 “Newport Jazz Festival in Europe” tour
Given the long-running impact of Miles Davis’s various ensembles of legend, it’s a bit sobering to consider how short-lived they actually were.
Miles’s mid-1950s quintet—featuring John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones—lasted roughly a year and a half, as did his road band from the Bitches Brew era, with Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. The famous sextet with Coltrane, Chambers, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, Jimmy Cobb? No more than eight months in 1958—plus two days the following spring to record Kind of Blue.
By this measure, the nearly four-year life of Miles’s renowned ‘60s Quintet—Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams—seems an eternity. Predictably, by remaining a consistent unit from late ‘64 to the spring of ’68, and despite Miles being sidelined through much of ’65 with health issues, this lineup was able to mature, change, try out new ideas, stumble, recover, and proceed anew unlike any other in the trumpeter’s employ. Such was their legend that even before each member departed, one by one, they were being referred to collectively as Miles’s Second Great Quintet.
The inevitability of their growth was due in part to Miles’s own intrepid drive, as much as it had to do with the group’s youthful charge and unlikely combination of talent—two characteristics that would mark Miles’s groups for the remainder of his career. A wispy sounding saxophonist who favored lyrical contours over explicitly stated lines. A classically informed pianist of harmonic dexterity and rhythmic suppleness. A bassist with an elastic feel and rootsy clarity to his sound. A teenage drummer who was already a proven master of rhythms and offbeat patterns with an ear for both avant-garde jazz and the burgeoning sound of rock.
— Ashley Kahn, July 2011