Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Miles Davis - Live in Tokyo 1975 (Hi Hat, 2015)

Ten days before the recording of the extraordinary live LP’s Agharta and Pangaea, both recorded live in Osaka, Miles Davis was recorded in Tokyo for FM radio which makes up this release. His final band before going into seclusion saw him playing electric and acoustic trumpet and organ along with Sonny Fortune on saxophones, Pete Cosey and Reggie Lucas on guitar, Michael Henderson on bass, Al Foster on drums and James Mtume on percussion. Miles Davis had left jazz far behind at this point (he hated the word anyway) and was producing massive slabs of free funk, anchored by the unsung hero of the band bassist Michael Henderson, whose electric bass throbs like a heartbeat throughout the concert. The music is one continuous flow only differentiated by hints of melody that allow for track markings on this two disc set. The album opens with “Prelude/Funk” which evolves into a massive molten explosion of music, the drum and two percussion pocket is amazing along with with effects laden guitar and Miles’s blasts of trumpet and jarring gusts of organ. “Maiysha” develops a little more subtlety with Fortune switching to flute, but still accompanied by the organic percussion and bass along with jabs of organ and slashes of guitar. This shows that the band wasn’t just a volcanic blast of pure energy, while they could certainly put the pedal down with thrilling results, they were also capable of quiet delicacy. Miles still had complete mastery of the trumpet as showed on “Ife” where he solos at length over the entire band who is laying down the most intoxicating electro-funk groove imaginable, so far ahead of its time. The guitars are like pointed laser beams, cutting through the thick edifice of loud organ and bubbling drums and percussion. The group then runs through a series of shorter themes, “Mtume” featuring the percussionist, with the drums and the percussion locking in the rhythm is a powerhouse. The band plows at a pulverizing tempo, with Miles punching through on wah drenched trumpet and smears of guitar adding texture, but it is the percussionists and drummer’s show and they make the most of it. “Turnaround Phrase” is jaw dropping and shows the band at their most hardcore with everybody playing as hard as they can and where Miles attempts to melt your face off with that wah trumpet, slashing like a third guitarist who is schooling the other two after which Cosey and Lucas take up the challenge, this is absolutely thrilling music. The concert concludes with an “Untitled Original” where they tone down the music to a hypnotic drone with Miles and Sonny Fortune playing beautifully at a medium tempo supported by subtle bass and drums. The music here is really beyond jazz, rock, funk or any pre-existing category. It’s Miles Davis music, sounds that have even farther from 1974’s Dark Magus, into a vortex all its own. It’s absolutely brilliant, any fan of electric Miles must consider purchasing it. Yes, Miles Davis stepped away from music not long after this show because of illness and addiction, but also perhaps because this is the logical end of the music he had been making for the past six years. From In a Silent Way to Agharta and Pangaea is an exhausting and completely groundbreaking run of music. But where could he have gone from there? How much more extreme could it have gotten? Burned out and exhausted after thirty years of ceaseless innovation Davis would leave music for five years after these recordings. Live in Tokyo 1975 -

Send comments to Tim.