8.2.1970 Nassau, Bahamas

This brief, but complete tape from the CBS Records Convention in the Bahamas is a bit of an anomaly. The septet performed a truncated set to an audience of CBS Records personnel and despite no photos, video, or first-hand accounts of the event, this soundboard recording mysteriously appeared decades after the fact.

Brief sets weren’t uncommon for the band in 1970; they played a lot of festivals and supporting gigs, and even made a couple of TV appearances. This was a different beast: a 25-minute show for a small audience of invited guests, many of whom were responsible for promoting Miles’ records. The resulting set (young Steve Grossman’s swan song with the band) is an ultra-potent cross-section of nearly everything that made this lineup so exceptional.

Miles with CBS Records head, Clive Davis in 1969

The tape fades in on a truncated “Directions” that after brief, almost perfunctory solos from Miles and Grossman, breaks into a heady percussion and organ-centric groove that is pure On the Corner – albeit two years before the record took shape in Studio B. A seamless segue into “Bitches Brew” follows, with its stop/start intro now completely replaced with a single elongated swell – Corea dials up some truly alien frequencies in an incredible ring-modulated Rhodes solo while a bit of reverb on Miles and Airto adds some spacey ambiance to the brief closing vamp.

Trimmed to a tidy 3:25 from the 11-minute workouts we heard at the June Fillmore East shows, “The Mask” is merely a pressure release valve leading into a spectacular “Spanish Key”, with Miles almost mirroring the album version note for note throughout his solos. Curiously, “The Theme” has taken a turn for the weird since mid-June, now featuring an extended freak out finale after Miles’ closing statement.

At a startling 25 minutes, this is the best pound-for-pound gig of 1970.

Get the tape
1. Directions (4:45)
2. Bitches Brew (7:39)
3. The Mask (3:24)
4. Spanish Key/The Theme (10:03)