This 1963 date is from the period when Miles Davis was still assembling his great mid-'60s quintet. For this intense, high-energy recording, four-fifths of that group are already in place. Missing is saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who would arrive about a year later. For the Juan-Les-Pins jazz festival concert, George Coleman is the saxophonist and he is in blistering form. A fiery, linear player, with impeccable, advanced hard bop instincts, Coleman helps push these performances from the standard Davis repertoire to an unprecedented level of deconstructed abstraction that would become even more pronounced in the coming years. It is the trumpeter, though -- all impertinent blats, rubbery smears of sound, and unexpected shifts in dynamics -- who leads the push here toward the cool, impressionistic, wholly original, cerebral funk that would emerge once Shorter was in the group. Bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams at this point have already set the new rhythm section standard they would maintain with Davis. While Carter is at times under-recorded, Williams is done full justice in the mix -- his solo on a full-tilt version of "Walkin'" a definite highlight. It is only pianist Herbie Hancock, still in a bop/hard bop frame of mind, who has yet to completely assume his own personality in the group. That said, his playing is excellent. He is an intelligent, probing, and inspiring accompanist and solos with finesse, clarity, and assurance. All in all, a wonderful 60 minutes from the Côte d'Azur.
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AllMusic Review by Jim Todd