The Miles Davis original, “The Mask” is unique in that it was likely conceived, recorded, and quickly added to the live set as an outlet for the working band’s freeform exploration. Recorded in a June 4, 1970 session, the tune was laid to tape in two parts, the first a completely unstructured improvisation (the closest Miles would ever get to “free jazz”), the second part a swirling wash of multiple keyboards, percussionists, guitar, sax and trumpet underpinned with a walking bassline and a sublime, slow groove from Jack DeJohnette.
When the tune debuted at a mid-June four-night stand at the Fillmore East, the first part flowed seamlessly into the second to form a wild, downright lysergic slab of sound that hovered around 11 minutes in length. By August, “The Mask” had been distilled into a stunning four-minute cosmic voyage. After a total of six recorded live performances, it was dropped from the set.
I’ve created a megamix that stitches together every recorded version of the tune (studio + live), allowing them to oscillate into and out of one another across 73 uninterrupted minutes.
Mask up and take the journey.
Studio session: Parts 1 & 2 Recorded June 4, 1970, Columbia Studio B (from the Complete Jack Johnson Sessions)
Live performances: June 17, 18, 19, & 20, Fillmore East, August 2, 1970, Nassau Bahamas, August 18, 1970, Tanglewood
June 4 (studio) Miles Davis (tpt); Steve Grossman (ss); Herbie Hancock (el-p, org); Chick Corea (el-p); Keith Jarrett (el-p); John McLaughlin (g); Dave Holland (b, el-b); Jack De Johnette (d); Airto Moreira (perc); Hermeto Pascoal (d, voc)
Live: Miles Davis (tpt); Steve Grossman (except Tanglewood)/ Gary Bartz (Tanglewood) (ss, ts); Chick Corea (el-p, perc); Keith Jarrett (org, fl); Dave Holland (b, el-b); Jack De Johnette (d); Airto Moreira (perc, voc)