Miles played his final set of career-redefining Fillmore shows May 6-9, 1971 at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West. Anticipating the emergence of stadium and arena gigs that would define the 1970s, Graham closed his Fillmore East on June 27, followed by the Fillmore West on July 4, 1971. Though it’s presumed both Columbia and the Fillmore recorded the sextet’s four shows opening for the Elvin Bishop Group and Mandrill, only this May 7 soundboard recording is in circulation. Often overshadowed by the many recordings the band made at Fillmores East and West the previous year, this tape easily holds its own as the most ultra-modern of the bunch.
While out west, the sextet performed a week of shows at Shelly’s Manne-Hole in Los Angeles, and Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette recorded their duo record Ruta and Daitya at Sunset Studios – released in 1973 on EMC, it was Jarrett’s final LP to feature him on electric piano. And though the band continued to perform throughout the summer, including a week at the Gaslight Club and a two-night-stand at the Beacon Theater in New York, this May 7 tape is the final recorded performance to feature Jack DeJohnette as a regular member of the sextet – he’d later return for a single gig at Lincoln Center on November 26 at the insistence of Keith Jarrett.
The band presumably began the set with “Directions” but the tape picks up early in “Honky Tonk” as Miles’ solo gives way to Gary Bartz – both of whom are remarkably inspired throughout the set. Miles continues to refine his technique with the wah pedal and uses it to send his solos stratospheric throughout the show, while Bartz balances out the intensity with a more nuanced, lyrical and downright spiritual counterpoint.
The mid-set cooldown of “Sanctuary” gives way to a monstrous 40-minute slab of “It’s About That Time” > “Funky Tonk” in which DeJohnette is in exceptional form throughout – his duet with Jarrett on the “Funky Tonk” intro is a rare treat. Jarrett’s playing is notably subdued and percussive across the set’s back half, adding some extra heft to the groove under Bartz’ solos and sparring round for round with Miles during a spectacular “Funky Tonk”.
A deeply layered, often subtly brilliant performance. Among the best you’ll hear from this lineup.
Get the tape
1. Honky Tonk (incomplete) (7:46)
2. What I Say (10:36)
3. Drum Solo (3:45)
4. Sanctuary (3:30)
5. It’s About That Time (19:36)
6. Funky Tonk (19:32)
7. Sanctuary (closing theme) (:56)
8. Outro (:11)
Note on the tape: There are two versions of this performance in circulation. The most common is a straight dry soundboard mix (heard in the YouTube source above). The downloadable version here is from a Japanese CDR release in which the mix has been nicely EQ’d and echo added where appropriate (noticeable on Miles’ horn within the first few seconds). I highly recommend this upgrade if you’re only familiar with the dry mix.