A bootleg performance has circulated amongst jazz collectors for decades, apparently the only known recording of members of the leaderless Miles Davis 1960s quintet (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Tony Williams) featuring Gary Peacock on bass. I received my copy excitedly from Jacob Garchik many moons ago, at which time it was labeled as being recorded at Slugs in August of 1965. I’ve alternately found copies that purport to have come from the Village Vanguard, and like eveything else is now on YouTube. The leader, date, personell, and location have each in turn been disputed, and are often reproduced without much reference, as shown here:
The tracks include “The Eye Of The Hurricane,” “Just In Time,” “Oriental Folk Song,” “Virgo,” “Fran-Dance,” and “Theme” (a quick statement of William’s “Tomorrow Afternoon”). Many educated listeners, including members of that band, have attempted to confirm the location, date, and personnel but with often puzzling and contradictory results. The bootleg is an enigma, taking people who obsess about such things down a discographical rabbit hole. I’ve been fixated on this recording for sometime, and here is what I have managed to find out and hypothesize in hopes perhaps the truth might be confirmed.
What is Known
What is certain about the recording is that it features Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Tony Williams who are each unmistakable in their individual performances. The subject of whether or not it was indeed Peacock on bass came up while researching my doctoral dissertation on Peacock’s early 1960s New York Period. It would seem the most straight forward way to confirm this set would be to ask him directly during our interactions, but alas his response was lacking any degree of certainty:
“I recall doing the Vanguard with Miles though he might have not shown later in the week. … I’ve heard one bootleg tape but couldn’t say for sure if it was me on bass.” (Personal correspondence, Gary Peacock 2013)
In this regard Peacock is referring to his appearance at the Village Vanguard with Miles in May of 1964, shortly after debuting with the group, substituting for the absent Ron Carter. Many sources have reprinted the erroneous account in Billboard Magazine of Peacock also playing the Vanguard with Miles over Thanksgiving of 1965, which could be a source of some of the confusion, a report disproved by first hand accounts published soon after in Downbeat. Peacock had performed with the band a couple of weeks earlier in Philadelphia, but Reggie Workman was to join the band in New York for the Holiday run.
The audibility of the bass is problematic, and does not sound professionally recorded. It is doubtful it is a radio broadcast unless excessive duplication has degraded the quality, and great pains have been taken to remove announcements and advertisements. Except for one solo on “Oriental Folk Song” the bass is difficult to identify with clarity. During this solo however we hear many of Peacock’s trademarks and unequalled virtuosity (the ballad playing on Shorter’s “Virgo” also bears striking similarity to Peacock’s work on the 1963 take of “Getting Started” recorded with Paul Bley and Paul Motian.) What also seems likely is that no one musician was the leader here, as the collection of tunes feature contributions from Hancock (“Eye of the Hurricane”), Shorter (“Virgo”, “Oriental Folk Song”), Williams (“Tomorrow Afternoon”), and Miles (“Fran Dance”), which suggests a collective presentation unlikely for a gig under a single musicians name, especially when considering the prodigious output of Hancock and Shorter in particular. The inclusion of a Davis composition completes the compositional representation of the quintet’s regular members. As the band was also known for performing the matinee sets as a quartet it seems even more likely that was the presentation here.
1964 or 1965?
It would seem logical that this recording comes from 1964 and not 1965; Perhaps the bootleg has been mislabeled and is off by a year. This seems likely based on several factors:
- 1964 coincides with a period where Miles was notorious for missing sets, reported as such in local press around the country (see Chris DeVito’s excellent Miles Davis Chronology). Miles missing a set or an entire gig would force the collective to put together a set of compositions that featured their writing talents in a more or less equal fashion. This would explain the sharing of space represented in the set.
- Most obviously, 1964 coincides with when most of these tunes were either recorded or released (two tracks would be recorded in September on the Shorter Album Night Dreamer and Williams would record “Tomorrow Afternoon” in August with Peacock on Bass).
- Peacock was with the group in May of that year, and does recall the Vanguard and Miles missing at least one set. While the poor recording quality makes it difficult to hear the Vanguard’s trademark acoustics, it seems possible based on multiple hearings.
- The slight idiomatic inconsistencies in Gary’s playing could easily be attributable to some of the significant health issues he reports happening beginning about that time, and could result in the variances heard throughout the summer European tour with Albert Ayler and Don Cherry.
- The sound of the group is much closer to that heard a few months earlier on “Four and More” than what would evolve into that heard in late 1965 at the Plugged Nickel. By then the musicians had become adept masters at stretching within and outside the bounds of a tune, where as here the presentation seems ironically conservative in comparison.
- The cymbal Tony Willams is using, that would become famous in the ensuing years, makes its earliest appearances about March, at least before the “Point of Departure” album but after the February Four and More concert. This supports the plausibility that May is a possible recording date.
- There is no published advertisement from Slugs or The Village Vanguard in August of 1965 that features Miles or this lineup of the band.
However there is one glaring issue with this hypothesis: all accounts point to Wayne Shorter not joining the band until September at the Hollywood Bowl. As Peacock was in Europe with Albert Ayler until the end of the year this means, that if it is a Miles-less band, that it would need to be from 1965. The caveat here is much of Shorter’s accounts of his first days with the band (such as being in the studio one week after his debut with Davis) are incorrect yet repeated often without scrutiny.
Peacock did perform with the band in November 1965 in Philedelphia, perhaps the source, but the strange choice of compositions recorded a year earlier remains strange considering the intense compositional activity of all the groups members. Still, when comparing what is audible of the acoustics of the performance space with the existing bootlegs of the John Coltrane Quartet from the Showboat in June of 1963 an audible similarity, personel, and timeline points to this being the most likely source of the recording. GIven that Miles was coming back from a long illness and was prone to leaving early, this is the most likely location and date.
Perhaps if Peacock could not confirm his participation, other living members of the band could. In the Summer and Fall of 1965 each of these musicians was on temporary hiatus from the Quintet due to Davis’s forced sabbatical and related health issues. Each musician was recording individually and appearing as leaders and in various collaborative combinations. Hancock, Shorter, and Williams would rejoin the trumpeter in November, with documented performances in Philadelphia, Detroit, and the Village Vanguard before appearing at Bohemian Caverns, Washington, D.C. and recording the “Live at the Plugged Nickel” performances in Chicago that December.
Wayne Shorter, in correspondence with producer Bob Belden (personal correspondence with Belden in January 2014) apparantly reported he played the Vanguard in 1965 with the trumpet-less band and Art Davis on bass, recorded for a WBAI-Radio broadcast in August and that this is the recording in quesiton. I believe Shorter is in error here, perhaps the statement refering to another engagement with Davis on bass. The biggest reason for this is the recording itself; Art Davis has an extremely identifiable sound, as the Coltrane and Max Roach recordings from this era testify. There is little if any resemblance in tone, rhythmic concept, or facility that connects Davis to these performances. Further, where was this performance of Shorter and Davis? If advertisements are to be believed, it was not the Vanguard or Slugs during the second half of 1965.
According to the Village Voice in 1965, the only Wayne Shorter Quartet gig in August or September was at Harout’s Restaurant, not at the Vanguard. This particular gig did feature Herbie Hancock, but it was Reggie Workman on bass. No other personnel are listed. Of course musicians substitute for one another often, but with Peacock’s relocation to Boston that year to study macrobiotics the likelihood of coming back and not remembering the trip become increasigly unlikely. This draws into question whether the location on the bootleg is suspect as well, and obviously the Village Voice is hardly a detailed record of all performances. For all we know it might have been recorded in another city, but as of yet there is nothing pointing in that direction.
Tony Williams was at the Vanguard that month as a leader, but advertised with a trio, not a quartet, and would certainly feature more of his original compositions than just the closing theme of the set. Only during the week of August 26th are members of the Quintet advertised for the Vanguard, but the pressence of Ron Carter seems disqualifying.
There was a Herbie Hancock performance at the Vanguard earlier that year, but it was from May and June. For the first two weeks only Williams and Shorter are listed as sidemen. The third week it is Richard Davis (not Art Davis) that is advertised playing bass. If the performance came from this gig, then the bassist’s names have been confused (not an unheard of occurrence), and the date of the recording is off by two months. But once again, there is absolutely no way anyone could confuse Richard Davis, Art Davis, and Gary Peacock; three of the most identifiable bassists of all time, and there is nothing “Davis” about this bass playing in either respect.
In conversations with John Patitucci the expert bassist speculated the bassist could be Albert Stinson, an intriguing hypothesis. Stinson did fill in with the Quintet in 1967 University of California (Berkeley) Jazz Festival, California, and was in the NYC area to record with Chico Hamilton and Charles Lloyd in 1965. Still, when comparing the playing heard on Charles Lloyd’s Of Course of Course (tracks with Albert from 1965), Chico Hamilton’s El Chico (1965) or Bobby Hutcherson’s Oblique (1967) there is little resemblance to the bass heard on “Oriental Folk Song.” Since there is no documented or recorded evidence of Stinson playing with members of the group between 1964-65 this hypothesis becomes increasingly remote.
To my knowledge, Hancock has not weighed in as to the details of this recording. He is notoriously difficult to contact regarding scholarship of his career, yet his insights could be invaluable and perhaps put all of these issues to rest.
I believe this recording is a non-professional recording of the Miles Davis Quintet, minus Miles, but labeled with either an incorrect date or venue. Based on similar recordings done from the era, and Peacock’s confirmed participation, the November 1965 gig at the Showboat in Philadelphia is the most likely source. There were reviews written about this gig in the now extinct Philadelphia Evening Bulletin which I am trying to obtain.
I would love to hear any additional opinions on this recording, or any new information! If you have some please send it along and it will be included in a follow up blog.