11.1.1969 Hammersmith Odeon, London

By the time the Newport Jazz Festival tour hit London, the quintet was on day 2 of a 7-day streak of gigs – each day featuring an afternoon and evening set. While at least one, and often both of the days’ sets of the tour were captured for radio broadcast, the only record of this show at the Hammersmith Odeon comes from a rough audience recording of the second set.

The band seems to be using the tour’s tight scheduling to experiment with the pacing and flow of its unbroken, suite-like set – a practice Miles’ groups began around ‘67. As evident in London, the quintet has dramatically toned down some of the ultra-intense freeform sections and begun handling tunes like “I Fall In Love Too Easily” and “Sanctuary” with increasing delicacy. The result is a set with less dramatic peaks, but one that gives the impression more like that of a single song – collapsing a 60-70 runtime into a listening session that feels almost half that. Pure aural sorcery.

Still, in a set with increasing cohesiveness, there are plenty of highlights. “Directions” is revealing itself as the ideal opener, a position it would begin to hold, amazingly, through 1971. “Bitches Brew” and “It’s About that Time” are simply two heads of the same monster here, clocking in at a total of 33 minutes and thrilling throughout.

Get the audience tape

1. Introduction (0:11)
2. Directions (7:39)
3. Bitches Brew (15:16)
4. It’s About That Time (18:14)
5. I Fall in Love Too Easily (3:21)
6. Sanctuary (3:16)
7. No Blues (5:15)
8. Paraphernalia (0:28)
9. Masqualero (11:19)