A Third Ear for “The Lost Quintet”

MILES DAVIS, The Lost Quintet (Sleepy Night Records, 2019)


  • Miles Davis, trumpet
  • Wayne Shorter, saxophone
  • Chick Corea, keyboards
  • Dave Holland, bass
  • Jack DeJohnette, drums


  1. Directions
  2. Bitches Brew
  3. Sanctuary
  4. Masqualero


In the late 1960’s, Miles Davis sought to redefine music as we knew it, chucking the yoke of Jazz aside while he did it. The Lost Quintet — the end result of a European tour from the fall of ’69 — is one of the earliest steps in that direction.

Having just ended the run of one of THE great jazz quintets of all time (featuring Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams), Miles began to embrace electric instruments (heresy in jazz circles) and eschewed the “standard” presentation format. The music presented here — heard in context — is both shocking and revolutionary. If molten lead had a sound, this would be it.

The quintet presented here never made a “proper” studio album, which could be deemed a shame, given its remarkable chemistry. It should surprise no one that each player has become an icon in his own right, with Miles Davis representing an impressive line on a brilliant resume.

Only Wayne Shorter remains from Miles’s previous band, and it’s no doubt a good thing he’s there, as the leader always seemed at his best with a musical foil, preferably a saxophone. Meanwhile, the new rhythm section of Chick Corea, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette forge innovative directions for their horn players to explore.

Even though the music can be deemed highly experimental, there is nothing tentative about what’s being played. Fans used to the likes of Kind of Blue and Miles Smiles were no doubt left reeling by this band’s power and energy. This work (which closely followed Tony Williams’s band Lifetime) helped usher in fusion, as it came to be known.

This set’s liner notes refers to the performance as being “flawed.” The only deficiency I hear is from the recording itself, which clearly comes from an LP. (You can hear the occasional “pop.”) The show itself is quite remarkable, shattering the expectations of what music from this group could or should sound like.

Granted, this would not be an ideal entry point into the world of Miles Davis. But anyone interested in walking a brilliant musical tightrope with no net would be well served by taking a few strides with this most remarkable band.


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