The Miles Davis septet’s November 3rd performance in Belgrade has been one of the longest circulating 1971 tapes due to its well-balanced mix and superb sound quality. Among the most common is a mid-90s CDR titled Another Bitches Brew that pairs an abridged set with Miles’ 1973 performance at the same venue, lazily grouping each gig into a single unbroken track. Avoid it. The tape offered here captures the complete performance, including the full “Yesternow” and “Funky Tonk” that are absent from most recordings.
Beyond the hi-fi audio quality, the concert is remarkable in that it’s largely … well, unremarkable. Whether the band’s four-day break following its performance in Rotterdam slowed its momentum or the septet simply lacked inspiration heading into week two of a five-week European tour, the set is devoid of the creative tension and rhythmic tug of war that pushed the music of the fall 1971 tour into new turf.
In place of the drama is a performance that allows the band’s more subtle characteristics to float to the surface. Though “Directions” is relatively straightforward here, a percussion-heavy mix reveals the complex textures that give it a sense of urgency and breadth. Similarly, “Honky Tonk” is treated almost as an anything-goes intro to “What I Say” – slowly building and deconstructing itself across 13 minutes with no particular destination in mind.
Like many of the preceding shows on this tour, the meditative second half of the set is positively stunning even if the trance is occasionally broken by an overactive Ndugu behind the kit. The closing “Funky Tonk” might be the highlight of the set with its narcotic groove, some wild wah’d bass from Michael Henderson, and exceptional solos from Miles and Gary Bartz. Keith Jarrett, always a mystery, is notably subdued throughout the performance.
Get the tape / Lossless
1. Directions (10:23)
2. Honky Tonk (13:14)
3. What I Say (14:22)
4. Sanctuary (2:36)
5. It’s About That Time (14:57)
6. Yesternow (20:07)
7. Funky Tonk > Sanctuary (closing theme) (11:03)
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)