Miles & Trane, The Final Tour: Copenhagen on LP

The Final Tour, Volume 6 of Columbia Legacy's Miles Davis Bootleg Series—documenting Miles' quintet, featuring John Coltrane, live in Europe in March 1960—is one of the most revelatory new-old jazz albums in recent years. Of the five concerts on the 4-CD boxed set, one of them—the March 24 date in Copenhagen—is now out on 180-gram LP, and not only is the music thrilling, the sound quality is extraordinary: as vibrant as just about any live album in the Miles catalog.

The concerts took place one year after the band recorded Kind of Blue, but, though they play two of the songs from that album ("So What" and "All Blues"), the music—the way they play them—is very different.

The big difference was John Coltrane. Miles' modal revolution had loosened his style, but Trane, who was eager to leave the band even before the tour, was rocketing off onto new orbits. He'd recently recorded Giant Steps, his first blast-off to the New Thing, transforming his "sheets of sound" into shards and blizzards, and here he turns up the intensity to 11. His solos are long, his lines extending for chorus after chorus, his tone sometimes furious, bars broken up into 32-note fragments, and yet he comes back to familiar motifs—he is still playing the songs at hand, just not as anyone has ever imagined, much less heard, them.

The contrast is electrifying: Miles still musing in his walking-on-eggshells phrasing, the band comping with verve and elegance. (Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb are still handling bass and drums, but Wynton Kelly, who played just one track on Kind of Blue, has taken over piano fulltime from the departed Bill Evans, and Cannonball Adderley's vacated alto-sax slot is left unfilled.) After a while, the rest of the band stretches out a bit too: Cobb swirling the cymbals more than usual, Chambers going arco, and Miles stomps on a few of those eggshells too.

Another four years would pass before Miles—who fashioned his reputation, before and later, as a restless innovator, even a revolutionary—assembled another band with quite this adventurous energy. (It came to be called "the second great quintet," with Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, Tony Williams on drums, and, finally, Wayne Shorter taking over on tenor sax—Shorter having been Coltrane's acolyte and the man Trane had recommended as his replacement, to Miles' dismissal, back in 1960.)

Bootlegs of the 1960 European concerts have been circulating overseas for some time. (I bought a double-LP of the Stockholm concerts, on the Swedish Dragon label, in the mid-'80s and have come across CDs of some Dutch and German concerts since.) But the Columbia Legacy set marks the first time any of these sessions have been released in the US.

And here we come to the sound quality. As mastered by Mark Wilder, the 4 CDs sound better than any of the bootlegs I've heard. The Copenhagen concert sounded best of all, which may be why the execs decided to put it out on LP—and the LP, as noted above, sounds superb. Miles' trumpet glows and blares through the air; Cobb's trap set sizzles; you can hear the wood and pluck of every note that Chambers plays; Coltrane, though he sometimes backs away from the microphone a bit, comes through in full force; and the ambience of the Tivolis Koncertsal is airy and spacious.

The sound is so rich and clear, I guessed that the album must have been struck from the original analog tapes. But Steve Berkowitz, one of the release's producers (along with Michael Cuscuna and Richard Seidel), told me that it was mastered from a high-rez (192/24) file of those tapes. The tapes are owned by Radio Denmark, whose engineers recorded the session way back when, and the execs wouldn't let the cherished artifacts out the door. Still, the tapes seem to be in pristine condition; the file was professionally transferred; and Mark Wilder of Battery Studios, New York, took it from there—wondrously, as usual.

fetuso's picture

Not that I think it matters, but following the link to Amazon, the listing says the record is 150 grams. Just want to make sure it's the right product.

bent river music's picture

Acoustic sounds lists it as 140gm but the label says Legacy.

fetuso's picture


barrows's picture

But how about download availability of those 24/192 files? Not everyone who loves Miles/'trane are running 'tables these days.

torturegarden's picture

I got the 4 CD equivalent at HD Tracks in 24/96.

Allen Fant's picture

As always, excellent over-view FK.
The CD set is pure fire!