There are so many live concerts, some recorded for posterity, some we remember hearing only once when we where there. Here are seven that will keep you coming back for return visits, since they are all still available. This is a personal list, and I’m not trying to pull rock and arena shows out of this hat, though I loved Richie Havens at Woodstock (“Freedom” for like two hours), and Jeff Buckley’s amazing Melbourne show. So this following is at best a partial list of picks. Reader please forgive me for the many I’m not listing here.
1. Sviatoslav Richter, Sofia Bulgaria 1958. Here he plays Mussorgsky’s classic “Pictures at an Exhibition” solo piano. The playing is so strong you find yourself asking “who needs an orchestra”. His Carnegie Hall debut at few years later is also stellar.
2. John Coltrane, The Complete Village Vanguard Tapes. Recorded over several days in early November, 1961, this is one of those milestone recordings featuring the great quartet (Tyner, Jones, Garrison) abetted by Eric Dolphy. Guest appearances by Abmed Abdul Malik on oud Reggie Workman alternating on bass, and Garvin Bushell, oboe. The sound is powerful, luminous, transcendent.
3. Baden Powell, Live at the Rio Jazz Club. Powell had just returned to Rio de Janeiro after decades in Europe; he returned after the dictatorship fell in 1985. This show was from a small club and Baden was at his best, playing solo classics such as “Asa Branca”, “Variations on a Theme by Dorival Caymmi”, “Valsa de Eurydice” and others. He stands as one of Brazil’s greatest guitarists of all time.
Live in Argentina. This live record, done after she’d returned from exile in Spain, came at a time that the notorious Argentine dictatorship was about to fall. It was her welcome back show, this diva of the dispossessed and cultural hero. It was historic: just listen to the applause after “Gracias a la Vida”.
5. Miles Davis, Live at the Plugged NIckel (1965) & Live at Carnegie Hall (1961). Miles’ quintet at Chicago’s Plugged Nickel stretched it out to the max: incredible solos by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, shapeshifting rhythms from drummer Tony Williams. It’s a box set worth having. The Carnegie Hall show from May 1961 with the Gil Evans Orchestra is exceptional as well. The esteem and respect both Miles and Gil felt for each other was mutual.
Nina Simone at Town Hall. Her September 1959 show at New York’s Town Hall is one of her great live recordings. It’s paired on cd with The Amazing Nina Simone, but the Town Hall gig was always my favorite. She does “You Can Have Him”, “Exactly like You”, and other unforgettable Nina classics.
7. The final entry here is the Ellington set at Newport 1956. Tenor saxophonist Paul Gonzalvez’ solo on “Diminuendo & Crescendo in Blue” is sensational. The crowd surges when a platinum blonde gets up on stage and starts to dance. And Gonzalves just keeps going and going, soloing forever.