Unless you happen to be a musician or a very perceptive listener, it's often tough to distinguish exceptional jazz from the merely satisfactory. Miles Davis' famed second quintet of 1964-68 is a rare exception to this rule, a band so individually brilliant and collectively virtuosic, even your average Katy Perry fan can tell there's some very serious shit happening there. Live in Europe, the latest in Columbia's continual line of Miles reissues, is the most interesting yet: three discs of live recordings (plus a bonus DVD), some never before released, bootleg or otherwise, showcasing the Quintet in their absolute prime. Captured during the Quintet's 1967 tour of Western Europe, the band is seasoned, exploratory, and astonishingly cohesive. Pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Tony Williams are constantly churning and gearing tempos up and down with telepathic precision, as Miles on trumpet and, especially, Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, deliver some of their fiercest solos to date. Digesting all four discs — roughly five hours of music — can be wholly exhausting. But taken in healthy doses, "Europe" is a mind-boggling experience, a show of pure musical prowess by one of history's greatest bands.
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