10.26.1971 Brussels

Ten days into the Newport Jazz Festival in Europe tour, the Miles Davis septet hit its stride at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels on October 26. Originally recorded by Belgian Radio and Television, the tape captures the complete performance albeit in slightly muddier fidelity than you’d expect from a state-sponsored broadcast. Still, the 80-minute tape and this lone photo of Miles and Don Alias from the evening’s show (below) are evidence enough; this is a phenomenal performance for a band with just six dates under its belt.

As with the preceding shows on this tour, the set’s success hinges on the drumming of 19-year old Ndugu Chancler, who after a stunning display in Switzerland and a shaky night in Paris, turns in his most solid performance thus far. He’s relaxed, patient, and surprisingly attuned to Miles’ coded phrases that signal the start of a new tune. The result is a tighter and somewhat shorter set than usual, but one that’s brimming with incredible moments.

“Directions” plows forth with unexpected momentum, never downshifting into the halftime groove after the opening themes (great example of that halftime groove in the Dietikon show) before collapsing into “Honky Tonk”, which is bookended by an incredibly inspired intro from Jarrett and some great staccato riffing from Miles toward the back half. There’s a moment of uncertaintly as Miles cues “What I Say”, but the band quickly locks into a tidy funk vamp before segueing into the song proper. Interestingly, what sounds like an impromptu jam has actually evolved across the tour into the intro heard here. It’s a shame the groove never developed into a full-fledged tune.

“It’s About That Time” features the most impressive groove of the night under Bartz’s solo (who continues to play some of the best shows of his tenure with Miles while on this tour) while “Yesternow” reveals traces of the next phase in Miles’ evolution: mournful, elongated horn lines that predate his Agharta / Pangaea period, and brief glimpses of a melody that would later become “Zimbabwe”.

A thriller of a tape from end to end.

Get the tape
1. Directions (10:53)
2. Honky Tonk (11:47)
3. Segue/Jam (2:05)
4. What I Say (10:28)
5. Sanctuary (2:58)
6. It’s About That Time (12:08)
7. Yesternow (10:59)
8. Funky Tonk/Sanctuary (closing theme) (18:25)

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)