The five-week, 21-date 1971 Newport Festival in Europe tour was both exhaustive and exhausting, but as a platform for showcasing Miles’ headlong dive into abstract funk, it certainly got the job done. The tour’s all-star lineup of Duke Ellington and his orchestra, Ornette Coleman’s quartet, as well as a “Giants of Jazz” ensemble featuring Monk, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie only reinforced the stark contrast between Miles’ new direction and the more traditional jazz he’d largely abandoned.
This performance in Cascais is the end of the road for the septet’s European tour and the curtain call for drummer Leon Chancler, who was immediately, though temporarily replaced by Jack DeJohnette when the band returned to the states. Just 18 at the time Miles added him to his working group, Chancler was admittedly in over his head throughout the tour but would go on to great things; a stint with Mwandishi earned him the nickname “Ndugu” (Swahili for “earthly brother”), he contributed to Joe Henderson’s magnificent The Elements and Weather Report’s last great album Tale Spinnin, and hit paydirt on Michael Jackson’s Thriller and BAD LPs. The kid did alright.
“Playing with Miles was definitely something I regarded as something out of my reach … The overall awareness that he had of what everybody was doing and how they were doing it really affected me. He listened to everything and everybody. Those are the things that turned my life around. There was just so much going on there, and it was so intense and so much so soon. It was phenomenal.”Ndugu as quoted from Miles Beyond by Paul Tingen
Whether in celebration of the tour’s finale or the release of the Live/Evil LP just days prior, there’s a jubilant air to this Cascais appearance from the moment the band arrived at the airport through to the “Sanctuary” closing theme. Film footage of the performance (spliced together from several existing sources by the essential Milestones YouTube archive) shows Miles looking positively ecstatic backstage and determined to let the band stretch and guide the set at their own pace. While the fidelity is pretty sub-optimal and the performance incomplete, the resulting tape is brimming with tour highlights.
The tape’s crunchiness dissipates as “Directions” builds steam, peaking as Miles solos over a phenomenal groove across the final couple of minutes. Ndugu sticks the landing as the septet segues seamlessly into “What I Say” – its muscular, ultra-funky intro stretching to just under half the length of the tune (a shame this jam section never evolved into a stand-alone track, but c’est la vide). A brief clip of “It’s About That Time” captures it creeping to life as if being reassembled from scraps, while “Honky Tonk” is given similar treatment – sparse, spacious and unspooling at a glacial pace before Miles and Gary Bartz christen it with a pair of superb solos. The jewel of the set is “Funky Tonk”, featured here in its final live recording and appended by an intro from Keith Jarrett that travels from tantric to tear stained. Ndugu and Michael Henderson lock in early on a remarkably languid, hypnotic groove that gives Miles, Bartz and Jarrett the launchpad to travel stratospheric before the bandleader cues “Sanctuary” to bring it safely back to Earth. There’s much lost in the murk of this audience tape, but what pokes through the clouds is often otherworldly.
Get the tape
1. Directions (11:44)
2. What I Say (15:27)
3. Sanctuary (2:26)
4. It’s About That Time (incomplete) (2:08)
5. Honky Tonk (incomplete) (9:43)
6. Funky Tonk (21:51)
7. Sanctuary (closing theme) (:24)
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)