Jazz CD Reviews

MILES DAVIS – Miles At the Fillmore: Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3 – Sony Legacy (4 CDs)

You can dance to this music, but it’s tricky.

Published on June 26, 2014

MILES DAVIS – Miles At the Fillmore: Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3 – Sony Legacy (4 CDs)

MILES DAVIS – Miles At the Fillmore: Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3 – Miles Davis, trumpet; Steve Grossman, tenor & soprano sax; Chick Corea, electric piano; Keith Jarrett, organ; Dave Holland, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums; Airto Moreira, percussion, flute & vocals. Sony Legacy 88765433812 (4 CDs) [3/25/14] *****:

These CDs include the complete sets Miles played at both Fillmores in 1970 (East: June 17-20; West: April 11). He’d just released Bitches Brew, which had been recorded six months previously, so two shortened cuts from that album feature on each CD: “Bitches Brew” and “Sanctuary.” Like the previous two volumes in this “bootleg” series, it is a must for the serious and adventurous jazz collector. A recording in March 1970 at the Fillmore East had caught the engineers unprepared for the group’s volume and contained considerable distortion. According to the program notes, the engineers learned their lesson, “using safer mic-ing techniques and recording on an eight-track rather than a four-track tape machine.” As a result, the sound on this set is clear and full with no distortion.

You’d probably wear yourself out finding live sets this energetic and groundbreaking. I played it for my local jazz club (admittedly a conservative bunch) and it immediately stirred up a controversy. One person walked out in disgust, another swayed ecstatically to the ready-to-go-anywhere rhythm. Forty-four years later and Miles is still making trouble. Often one piece changes identity several times. Disk Two’s “It’s about that Time” starts with funky rhythms by Davis and Grossman, yields to a frenetic free jazz interlude, and then becomes soft and reflective, as if swaying to a Tampa Bay summer breeze. You can dance to this music, but it’s tricky. On the same disk, “Bitches Brew” has the band playing some ominous-sounding, lurking riffs that keep you listening, transfixed, as if something wild and unpredictable is about to happen. And it does. Over and over.

If you have two CD players, try this trick. Play the same piece – say, “Directions” – on each player. Take two minutes from Disk Three, the same two from Disk Four, and notice the changes. Of course there are going to be some in any jazz performance of the same piece on different nights, but here Miles actually develops between them. And expands. By Disk Four “Directions” has transmogrified from a virtuoso display that gradually reveals itself to a mean frenetic version that takes its time stating the dominant theme, adorning the playing with unconventional sounds like whistles, kazoos, and yelping. By Disk Four, the band has warmed up and embarked on some dark & scary explorations.

Don’t look for too many extended solos here, except possibly by Davis and Grossman. There are no showcase keyboard solos (instead, a few frenetic outbursts). Drummer Jack DeJohnette has never been much of a star soloist like Ginger Baker, even on his recent feature albums, and Airto Moreira does provide intricate textures, but no flute solos that would raise Eric Dolphy from the grave. That’s not what this music is about. Rather, it is bustlingly noisy music that refuses to resolve, capitulate, or be categorized under any circumstances. If you haven’t experienced Mile’s music from this funk/fusion era, give it a try. It’s like hearing Bartok’s music for string quartet the first time. Not only have you never heard anything like it, but you’ll rattle your brain trying to imagine where it came from (and where it went). How much music today can you say that about?

TrackList:

Disc 1:
1. Introduction (Live at Fillmore East June 17, 1970)
2. Directions (Live at Fillmore East June 17, 1970) 
3. The Mask (Live at Fillmore East June 17, 1970) 
4. It’s About That Time (Live at Fillmore East June 17, 1970) 
5. Bitches Brew (Live at Fillmore East June 17, 1970) 
6. The Theme (Live at Fillmore East June 17, 1970) 
7. Paraphernalia (Live at Fillmore West April 11, 1970) 
8. Footprints (Live at Fillmore West April 11, 1970) 
 
Disc 2:
1. Directions (Live at Fillmore East June 18, 1970) 
2. The Mask (Live at Fillmore East June 18, 1970) 
3. It’s About That Time (Live at Fillmore East June 18, 1970) 
4. Bitches Brew (Live at Fillmore East June 18, 1970) 
5. The Theme (Live at Fillmore East June 18, 1970) 
6. Spanish Key (Encore) (Live at Fillmore East June 18, 1970) 
7. The Theme (Encore) (Live at Fillmore East June 18, 1970) 
 
Disc 3: 
1. Directions (Live at Fillmore East June 19, 1970) 
2. The Mask (Live at Fillmore East June 19, 1970) 
3. It’s About That Time (Live at Fillmore East June 19, 1970) 
4. I Fall in Love Too Easily (Live at Fillmore East June 19, 1970) 
5. Sanctuary (Live at Fillmore East June 19, 1970) 
6. Bitches Brew (Live at Fillmore East June 19, 1970) 
7. The Theme (Live at Fillmore East June 19, 1970) 
8. Miles Runs the Voodoo Down (Live at Fillmore West April 11, 1970) 
 
Disc 4: 
1. Directions (Live at Fillmore East June 20, 1970) 
2. The Mask (Live at Fillmore East June 20, 1970) 
3. It’s About That Time (Live at Fillmore East June 20, 1970) 
4. I Fall in Love Too Easily (Live at Fillmore East June 20, 1970) 
5. Sanctuary (Live at Fillmore East June 20, 1970) 
6. Bitches Brew (Live at Fillmore East June 20, 1970) 
7. Willie Nelson (Live at Fillmore East June 20, 1970) 
8. The Theme (Live at Fillmore East June 20, 1970)

—Peter Bates




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