7.6.1970 Central Park

Miles returned to the Wollman Rink in Central Park for the 1970 Schaefer Beer Music Festival nearly a year to the day his quintet performed on the same stage. The Miles Davis septet shared the bill with the Buddy Miles Big Band for matinee and late sets at 7 and 9:30pm, and while there’s no indication of which set this audience recording captures, it’s an absolute thrill to hear this band blast a summer festival crowd with a performance so bold it borders on confrontational.

The septet’s in pure festival mode here – beyond the “Directions” and “The Theme” bookends, the setlist is straight Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way material – and from end to end the energy is on another level from just about anything we heard at the four Fillmore East shows weeks prior. Holland’s bass is pretty high in the mix (a delight), and Corea spends the intro of “It’s About That Time” fighting, corraling, even sculpting some wild feedback from the Fender Rhodes, so the stage volume may have accounted for the increased intensity of the performance. These are simply some of the deepest, hardest grooves the band laid down up to this point of 1970, almost all of which dissolve into incredibly focused, deftly controlled freeform side quests. Even the rough fidelity of the audience tape works in our favor here, blurring the definition of the instruments and coalescing the performance into a menacing, lurching whole.

Close to the tail end of the set at around 7:15 into “Spanish Key”, someone near the taper remarks how Miles “has come a long way from [unintelligible]”. Considering how far beyond everything this band is at this point, that might actually be an understatement.

At a tidy 42 minutes, just put this one on repeat and absorb it. A phenomenal show.

Get the audience tape

  1. Directions (8:55)
  2. Bitches Brew (9:24)
  3. It’s About That Time (9:55)
  4. Sanctuary (4:01)
  5. Spanish Key (8:47)
  6. The Theme (0:40)