Previous posts in this loose series have focused on sessions distributed as “trees” on the old Miles Trees site. I’ve focused on Davis’ electric work to this point, building out in my own way from the In a Silent Way/Bitches Brew start and into his funk era. However, there is a big gap between mid-to-late 1968/1969, 1970, and 1975. While Miles missed a good deal of time on the road with various health issues, there are still many more shows between the Fillmore shows and 1975.
1971 didn’t yield many commercial recordings for Davis. Sure, Live-Evil was put out, but that was based on the 1970 Cellar Door sessions that Columbia has since expanded into a box. Jack Johnson, also explored as a box, adds a tiny bit of the material here. However, those sessions, moreso than perhaps any of the other boxes, consist of many takes of similar material, rendering it one of the least satisfying (to me) of the series (and mostly for completists). Jack Johnson, while a quality Davis release, doesn’t portend subsequent records (On the Corner), isn’t the most extreme version of Davis’ live band (those are documented by Columbia and in the bootlegs), etc. As such, 1971 seems relatively uneventful compared to the immediately preceding and subsequent years.
In recent years, Columbia has done a pretty good job of filling in some of the blanks, supplementing the studio records of his fusion era with coveted recordings of the Lost Quintet. They also have done a nice job creating an understanding of Miles’ sessions around his landmark albums, with the On the Corner box fleshing out some of the aborted sitar work and nascent techno/funk Davis was playing with.
Yet for all of the focus on presenting a larger, more complete picture of Davis’ development, 1971, a year where Davis was quite active on the road (at least for a furious stretch between October and November (see here)), has been relegated to the bootleg circuit. The below shows aren’t by any means the totality of Davis’ live shows from 1971, and some of these shows are fairly common amongst tape traders (or in the form of unofficial CD releases in the ’90s). To name one, the Belgrade show was one half of the more commonly known Another Bitches Brew, with the second half (a concert from 1973) sectioned off for this post’s purposes.
Still, these shows are very representative of the strong stretch of 1971 that bridged Davis’ fertile period of 1968-1970, a period that featured a great deal of simultaneous development of his live sets and work in the studio, and the final stretch before his hiatus. Due to health problems, this would change. In a way, this flurry in 1971 would be the last strong bit of concert work until 1973, with 1972 mostly consisting of studio dates.
It should be noted, that, just as the Lost Quintet has risen to prominence in recent years, this group also has a strong jazz base, and it could, too, come to be known for its potential if not for the strong music you’ll find here. Familiar names like Keith Jarrett stand alongside Gary Bartz, Michael Henderson, and the percussionists Davis came to favor in this period. Sure, the instruments and the structure of the ensemble date this to an extent, but with the recent trend in giving critical recognition to darker niche corners of soundtrack work, this bridge between fusion and Miles’ extremely dark funk, a sort of mutant porno soundtrack that tugged between the jazz heads (Jarrett) and the funk players (Henderson), takes the tension of the Cellar Door sessions to a new level.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this snippet of 1971 gives you a look at the still less considered space between Miles’ last remaining strands of jazz DNA and where he came to consider “jazz” to be a dirty word. Check them out, and seek out the rest!
DISC 1 (10/21/71, Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi, Milan)
DISC 2 (10/26/71, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels)
DISC 3 (11/03/71, Dom Sindikata, Belgrade)
DISC 4 (11/09/71, Chateau Neuf, Oslo)
DISC 5 (11/16/71, Palazzo dello Sport, Turin)
SINGLE ARCHIVE HERE (718 MB)
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