The current lineup of the Miles Davis septet hit its stride around the halfway point of the 1971 Newport Festival in Europe tour with a pair of remarkable shows in Vienna and Berlin. While not as expertly documented as those dates, the band’s superb November 7th set at the Universitets Aula in Uppsala, Sweden easily measures up.
Session details indicate the performance was broadcast on Swedish public radio, and the circulating tape sounds like a somewhat lo-fi audience/soundboard hybrid to my ears. Still, the balance is solid, the percussion is refreshingly subdued in the mix, and the band is positively on from start to finish. And just get a look at this concert hall.
Operating from the same setlist for the 8th straight show*, this is our first tape of the tour where the band sounds in lockstep throughout, thanks in large part to a well-tempered Ndugu behind the kit. The result is a remarkably unfussy, cohesive set that flows beautifully, simply unraveling at its own pace.
With Miles rarely lifting his foot from the wah pedal, “Directions” > “Honky Tonk” > “What I Say” makes for a surprisingly tight, wild ride of an opening half. The intro to “What I Say” is particularly great here (extended to six minutes, it’s nearly as long as the actual song!) featuring a pair of mostly formed solos from Miles and Keith Jarrett and finally segueing seamlessly into the body of the tune – a minor triumph, as this transition has been pretty rough throughout the tour.
Following the “Sanctuary” hard reset, the back half of the set is a masterclass in spatial funk. “It’s About That Time” and “Yesternow” groove with a cool swagger, both of which kick Gary Bartz and Jarrett into full-on soul jazz mode as they trade solos. Jarrett’s peak is his ultra-weird dual keyboard intro to “Funky Tonk”, traveling from Terry Riley-esque hypnotic repetition into free-form, deconstructed gospel and out to planets unknown. The closing tune itself, like a lot of those in this performance, is completely devoid of fat and relatively brief but grooves hard.
Watch yourself, this is an impressively funky set.
Get the tape
1. Directions (12:47)
2. Honky Tonk (9:51)
3. What I Say (14:00)
4. Sanctuary (3:57)
5. It’s About That Time (12:14)
6. Yesternow (10:36)
7. Funky Tonk (16:18)
8. Sanctuary (closing theme) (1:16)
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)
*”Yesternow” was trimmed from the previous night’s Berlin show, but the band would continue to use the same song order for an additional 3 nights.