Richard Brody at The New Yorker:
There’s a great story behind “Miles Davis and John Coltrane—The Final Tour,” the sixth volume in Sony’s “Bootleg Series” of live recordings by Davis (it comes out March 23rd), and that story makes itself heard in the music. In 1960, the trumpeter Miles Davis, along with his regular band, was booked to go on a concert tour in Western Europe as part of the ongoing, and internationally famous, “Jazz at the Philharmonic” concert series. However, at exactly that time, Coltrane, who played tenor saxophone, was preparing to leave Davis’s quintet and form his own working group. Coltrane had been a sideman with Davis on and off since 1955; they were both born in 1926, but their careers took drastically different paths. Davis was already a minor star in 1945, at the age of nineteen, when he recorded with Charlie Parker. Three years later, at twenty-two, he led a nonet, featuring intricate arrangements, that proved vastly influential. (They’re gathered under the title “Birth of the Cool.”) Davis had a huge and significant discography as a leader by the time he hired Coltrane, an unheralded musician best known as a rarely soloing sideman, who’d never yet led a record date. With Davis, Coltrane quickly found his voice, and expanded it during a stint in 1957 with Thelonious Monk. Coltrane had led dates on several labels; recorded the influential “Giant Steps,” in 1959; and was ready to go out on his own.
Davis’s group, featuring the pianist Wynton Kelly, the bassist Paul Chambers, and the drummer Jimmy Cobb—which had been a sextet for several years, featuring Cannonball Adderley’s alto sax alongside Coltrane’s tenor—was now depleted. Adderley left in the fall of 1959, and Coltrane was feeling his oats.