The Miles Davis septet’s October 23, 1971 performance at Théâtre Nationale Populaire in Paris was the first of two the band played at the venue during its European tour. This first stop was likely part of the Newport Jazz Festival in Europe tour itinerary, while a two-set show at the Théâtre Nationale Populaire four days later on October 27 was probably a one-off headlining gig.
At 114 minutes, this complete October 23 audience tape is the longest recorded set of Miles’ electric period (narrowly edging out this late 1970 tape of mystery origin by 5 minutes). It’s also the first of the band’s 1971 European tour performances to be filmed for television, 30 minutes of which were broadcast as Jazz Session: Newport à Paris (below). Footage of the complete concert, as well as both sets on the 27th, remain in the archives of Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française.
The song order and resulting set flow are a bit out of the ordinary for the period, presumably the result of Miles’ desire to keep the band on its toes. “Sanctuary” is performed third, giving the first half of the set an atypically early cool-down period, while the halting trio of “Yesternow” > “Bitches Brew” > “Honky Tonk” are played consecutively at the heart of the show – a thrilling 43-minute stretch of music that verges on the edge of collapse at every turn.
There’s something fascinating about both the wooly nature of this show and how Miles gives the band free rein to explore new turf, find its limitations, and make mistakes. And mistakes are made … mostly, and often humorously at the hands of Ndugu Chancler, who’s caught working beyond his skill level behind the kit throughout the show. His hotdogging during “Bitches Brew” earns some particularly icy stares from Miles, who dropped the tune from the live set after this performance. Not the final reading the once-mighty show stopper deserved, but in terms of its utility within Miles’ rapid evolution, its time had passed.
Bartz continues to put on a masterclass on this European tour with another great performance, while Miles is clearly in a bit of physical distress with an arthritic hip, and Jarrett sounds downright pissed off on multiple occasions (his recollections of this tour, and of the percussionists specifically, have not been kind) – his noise solo on “Bitches Brew” appears to be his boiling point. Still, there’s much treasure here, including a particularly funky interlude into “What I Say”, which Henderson deftly reprises during the tune itself, as well as the fascinating continued evolution of “It’s About That Time”, which stretches further beyond recognizability and features an impressive pair of solos from Bartz and Jarrett.
A memorably wild show.
Get the tape
1. Directions (14:33)
2. What I Say (16:19)
3. Sanctuary (3:35)
4. It’s About That Time (13:04)
5. Yesternow (15:39)
6. Bitches Brew* (12:03)
7. Honky Tonk (16:33)
8. Funky Tonk (20:50)
9. Sanctuary (closing theme) (1:11)
* Final performance
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)