Saturday, April 05, 2014

Miles at the Fillmore - Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 3 (Sony/Legacy, 2013)

Miles Davis once stated that he could form the "greatest rock band you ever heard." He was well on his way to fulfilling this promise when he brought groups into the legendary Fillmore East rock hall on June 17 and 20, 1970, this is an expanded edition of the At Fillmore album where snippets of each concert were strung together to make a strange collection. Coming in the wake of the epochal Bitches Brew LP, the band consists of  Steve Grossman on saxophones, Dave Holland on (electric) bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums, Airto Moreira on percussion, Chick Corea on electric piano and Keith Jarrett on organ. The sets are roughly the same with enough diversions to keep things from going stale. "Directions" opens each set with a muscular blast of trumpet from Davis sounding stronger than ever (he needed to if he was to be heard over the tumult) and it's a raucous beginning, sure to get the attention of any skeptical rock fan.This is followed on each set by "The Mask" which opens the music up and lets it breathe, mostly as a feature for the dueling keyboards (a fascinating subplot throughout the package.) "It's About That Time" and "Bitches Brew" take the music even further out with the haunting theme of the former and the swirling blasts of the latter keep the music continuously interesting. The package pulls in extra tracks from the April 11 performance at the Fillmore, with Davis' "Paraphernalia" and Wayne Shorter's classic "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" sounding good if a little tentative and hampered by muddy sound quality compared to the clearer and crisper sound of the June performances. Davis sneaks a few curve balls in, hinting at "I Fall In Love Too Easily" on Discs 3 and 4 and "Willie Nelson" alternatively a blast from the past and a taste of what to come as Miles' music moved further into funk with the Jack Johnson LP. Fans of Davis' electric period will be thrilled with this release, this band was a swaggering juggernaut, loud and proud. With the two keyboards and Moeira's varied percussion adding texture this was a unique group marking Davis' leaving the jazz orthodoxy full move into electric funk.

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