Cd_miles-davis-miles-at-the-fillmo_span3
05/13/14

Miles Davis
Miles at the Fillmore--Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3
Columbia/Legacy

Miles Davis’ late 1960s and early 1970s live electric music always had a physicality to it, a heft that could make it feel as though something was leaning on you as you listened. Darker, bluesy shadings suggested an undercurrent of early soul and R&B, but this four-disc set culled from a quartet of June 1970 gigs outfits that sinewy, snaking presence with a tool more commonly favored by the likes of Hendrix, Cream and the Jimmy Page-led Yardbirds: big-time, wall-vibrating volume.

This may be the loudest jazz captured on tape to date, yet it remains some of the most lucent music of Davis’ career, with minute sonic details crystalizing into focus as this mother of a band—Keith Jarrett (organ) and Chick Corea (Rhodes) at the base of everything—finds favor with the Fillmore’s ragtag rock-culture youth. Palpable favor, going by the tapes: Fan reaction isn’t dissimilar to what you’ll hear on the Rolling Stones’ Madison Square Garden recordings from the year before.

Segments of this music, of course, have had official release, but there’s 100 minutes of new Fillmore East music here, giving us each of the four nights in full, plus some bonus cuts from the Fillmore West back in April. The setlist doesn’t vary much; “Directions” begins each round of proceedings, and it does so with drummer Jack DeJohnette instigating an ever-so-funky street-beat.

This is a rocked-up blues that has gone inner city, cut with streaks of diamantine radiance, in large part because of some of the best trumpet playing of Miles Davis’ career. The second half of the 1960s found him deploying his horn to goad and direct the young turks of the second great quintet as though it were a conductor’s baton, but the Davis of these Fillmore recordings is an absolute chops fiend. Davis regularly processes one of the ideas suggested by Jarrett and Corea in each of the four versions of “It’s About That Time,” reworks it into a figure uniquely his own and leads the band charging—rocking—down the latest corridor of this new house of sound.

One antecedent is the music Jimi Hendrix had made at this same venue half a year earlier, but whereas his Band of Gypsys featured a loping funk groove, Davis’ band has more musical weaponry, and thus greater versatility. Steve Grossman, having replaced Wayne Shorter, proves an ideal tenor/alto player for the unit, with his solos opening up more room for DeJohnette to uncork a range of fills that sometimes continue on into rolling polyrhythms that Davis’ trumpet repeatedly stabs at, as though testing their tensile strength.

The big setlist surprise is the airing of the standard “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” on the evenings of June 19 and 20. One doesn’t expect to encounter a Frank Sinatra nugget here—and a holdover from Davis’ own Seven Steps to Heaven from 1963—amidst the hoodoo maelstrom, but what was once a Valentine is now turned out as a coruscating celebration of a new music, and a new station in a musical life. These boys, simply, can hang with the Led Zep types in addition to their standard peers: a dual musical citizenship

Originally published in April 2014
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