The septet’s performance at the Tanglewood Music Center was the finale in a series of “Fillmore at Tanglewood” shows produced by Bill Graham in the summer of 1970. In one of the better pairings of the year, the band shared the bill with The Voices of East Harlem choir and the Graham-managed Santana, and given that half the septet was resplendent in sleeveless muscle shirts (captured on the Tribute to Jack Johnson LP cover), it was clearly a late August scorcher in the Berkshires.
The gig is the first known record of Gary Bartz on soprano and alto sax, who’d replaced Steve Grossman after a 5-month run with the septet. Evident within the first few moments of his “Directions” solo, Bartz meshed with the band impeccably and would remain with Miles for the next two years – the ensemble’s longest-serving reed player until Miles’ hiatus in 1975.
Notably, this is also the band’s second to last performance with Chick Corea and Dave Holland onboard, and the final recording of Corea on Fender Rhodes, as both he and Jarrett would perform on somewhat oddball loaner keyboards at the penultimate Isle of Wight gig.
“The music of yesterday, today, and very simply tomorrow — let’s welcome please a great artist, Miles Davis and his band…”Bill Graham’s Tanglewood intro
“Directions” kicks off ferociously with Miles in excellent form, clear, confident and powerful – both a sign of a balanced stage mix and a harbinger of a solid performance to follow. Corea and Jarrett’s call-and-response tandem solo beginning around 5:30 is damn impressive until Jarrett’s indulgence starts to dominate the mix. As “Bitches Brew” lurches to life, Holland and DeJohnette hijack the intro for a few minutes of deep, fractured funk before Bartz’ solo reveals the tune has been a spiritual jazz mantra hiding in plain sight.
“The Mask” makes its final recorded appearance but is essentially a “Bitches Brew” coda at this stage of its evolution – a far cry from those heady 11-minute versions from the June Fillmore East dates. The set’s axis remains “It’s About That Time” and it’s given a spectacular run-through here, remarkably similar to the studio version at the outset before building a full head of steam throughout Bartz’ solo and pulling “Sanctuary” into its orbit – foreshadowing to the way Miles would superimpose melodies over “Tune in 5” a few years later.
The subtlety of Miles’ cues paired with Holland’s intuition throughout this gig are astonishing, resulting in one of the more impressive suites of the electric period thus far. As if for emphasis, the band returns for an encore of “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” but bails out after a somewhat meandering 4 1/2 minutes. Clearly, the spell had been broken.
Audio and video of this one have been in circulation for decades, and if you’ve seen/heard it you know it warrants repeated listening. If this is your first encounter, you’re in for a treat.
Get the tape
1. Bill Graham intro (0:13)
2. Directions (9:32)
3. Bitches Brew (9:15)
4. The Mask (3:55)
5. It’s About That Time (7:30)
6. Sanctuary (1:36)
7. Spanish Key/The Theme (6:33)
8. Miles Runs the Voodoo Down (encore) (4:40)
9. Bill Graham outro (0:22)