The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965

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COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965
PERFORMER: Miles Davis (tpt), Wayne Shorter (ts), Herbie Hancock (p), Ron Carter (b), Tony Williams (d)
CATALOGUE NO: CXK 6695

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Issued in its entirety for the first time, the music on these eight CDs was recorded at Chicago’s small, intimate club, the Plugged Nickel, on 22 and 23 December 1965. Every note played in each of seven sets is captured; the first night’s second set is split between two discs. These are not just for completists or Davis fanatics, however; they should be investigated by anyone interested in the art of improvisation.

The material ‘Stella by Starlight’, ‘I Fall in Love too Easily’, ‘If I Were a Bell’, ‘Walkin’’, etc, is familiar fare from Davis’s acoustic repertoire, but the band, far from cruising through it on automatic pilot, is set firmly in exploratory mode. Davis was poised at the time on the edge of a more abstract band style, and the signs are all discernible here: there is a flexibility regarding tempos and harmonies,a willingness to follow improvisations where they lead, that foreshadow later, more celebrated recordings by the band such as Sorcerer and Nefertiti.

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Davis himself has seldom been captured in more relaxed mood; Shorter is intriguingly self-absorbed throughout; the rhythm section is discreet but adventurous, providing the perfect platform for over seven hours of consistently challenging, wonderfully absorbing jazz. Chris Parker