While traversing the continent on the five-week Newport Jazz Festival in Europe package tour, the Miles Davis septet presumably made a few detours to perform one-off headlining shows. An October 18 performance in Frankfurt appears to have been one (no circulating tape from that show, unfortunately), and this October 22 gig at the Neue Stadthalle in Dietikon Switzerland was likely another.
Both of the evening’s sets were broadcast on Swiss radio with superb engineering by Klaus Koenig, whose work resulted in one of the best aural documents of the 21-date Euro tour – even more impressive considering the organizers hired a Steinway grand piano in preparation for an acoustic show and the band performed no soundcheck.
Though the gig wasn’t likely an official stop on the Newport tour itinerary, the complete first set was released in 2015 on the Miles Davis at Newport 1955–1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4. Like the previous night’s performance in Milan, the pacing of the set feels a bit uneven as the band finds its limitations and develops a solid flow. Clearly still finding his place within the septet, Ndudgu particularly overextends himself throughout the set and keeps the band from developing the confidence required to achieve liftoff. You can hear Miles trying to right the ship, leading the septet into “Bitches Brew” to limited success, then letting the band blow it out with a massive 25-minute “Funky Tonk”.
Stream the first set from The Bootleg Series Vol. 4
1. Directions (13:05)
2. What I Say (10:43)
3. Sanctuary (3:42)
4. It’s About That Time (13:21)
5. Bitches Brew (11:55)
6. Funky Tonk (25:43)
7. Sanctuary (Reprise) (1:15)
Why it was passed over for official release in favor of the underwhelming first set is unknown, but the evening’s second set is an absolute thing of beauty.
Much of that is due to Ndugu’s radical transformation from the early gig. He’s toned down, locked in, and ultra-funky from the strut he drops under Bartz’ solo in “Directions” all the way ’til the tape runs out during “Funky Tonk”. The way Ndugu meshes with Henderson’s focused minimalism and Jarrett’s restrained Rhodes work (the combo organ is barely audible in the mix) reveals a direct link between the heady small band Jack Johnson sessions and the heavy polyrhythms of On the Corner.
Both Miles and Bartz are astounding here, with “Yesternow” a particular highlight thanks to a monstrous 9-minute solo from Bartz and Miles deftly quoting the “Directions” theme while deep in the weeds. Effortlessly recreating the then-soon-to-be-released Live/Evil LP in the way it flows into and out of marathon deep grooves and patches of haunting serenity, this is a landmark gig.
Miles Davis (trumpet)
Gary Bartz (soprano sax, alto, sax)
Keith Jarrett (Fender Rhodes piano, Fender Contempo organ)
Michael Henderson (electric bass)
Ndugu Leon Chancler (drums)
Charles Don Alias (conga, percussion)
James Mtume Forman (conga, percussion)