After little more than two weeks on the road with his re-tooled live ensemble, Miles returned to Lincoln Center to record the double LP titled simply, In Concert. Though it lacks the captivatingly in-the-red moments that made the group’s Ann Arbor set such a thriller, the pristine sound and evenly balanced mix of this official release make it easily the best live document of Miles’ 1972 working group. Recorded days prior to the October 11th release of the On the Corner LP, In Concert is a companion piece if there ever was one, from the albums’ impenetrable textures and unrelenting momentum on down to their complementary cover illustrations.
Much like Miles Davis at Fillmore, Black Beauty, and well… all of his live albums from the electric period, In Concert included no info on personnel or recording dates, labeling the LPs “Foot Fooler” (the evening’s first set) and “Slickaphonics” (second set) in lieu of proper song titles. According to Mtume, it was all part of Miles’ grand plan.
“He had pictures of all these black characters — the pimp, the Panther, the prostitute. There’s a white band in there and if you look at the drummer’s foot, it says “Foot Foolers.” That was Miles saying, “I really got the funk.” He put the critics to work; he didn’t want to put anyone’s name on the LP, so the critics wouldn’t even know whose music it was.”Mtume – The Fader, June 2005
Whatever Miles’ intent behind the album’s packaging, the music from both sets at Lincoln Center absolutely rips.
The first set tears a path across much of the same turf the band covered in Ann Arbor and Paul’s Mall, both in song selection and general vibe. A Fender Rhodes can be heard buried in the mix during “Chieftain” > “Rated X” – making its first appearance since Keith Jarrett departed the group in the spring. Though the electric piano is played infrequently throughout the show, the way the notes often mirror those played on the organ point to Cedric Lawson pulling double duty on both keyboards. Curiously, though Miles cues the band into “Black Satin” an exceptional “Honky Tonk” follows, its ebb and flow intro giving way to a refreshingly languid groove and a solid pair of solos from Miles and Carlos Garnett.
The second set cradles the evening’s molten core – the recorded debut of “Ife” – a hulking slab of spatial psychedelia that would be the centerpiece of Miles’ live sets through his 1975 hiatus. Though it’s heard here on tape for the first time, it was likely road-tested by the band during the Paul’s Mall residency the week before. Appearing in various incarnations on Big Fun, Dark Magus, Agharta, and Pangea, here it’s in a surprisingly experimental, almost embryonic form, slowly unfurling across two distinct sections – the tune’s jaunty second half featured on this recording was abandoned in early 1973, leaving the slower four-note riff often hovering around a half-hour in length and consuming all in its path. We’ll return here often.
First set / “Foot Fooler”
1. Chieftain (5:55)
2. Rated X (6:11)
3. Honky Tonk (9:18)
4. Right Off (10:12)
5. Black Satin > Sanctuary (14:14)
Second Set / “Slickaphonics”
1. Ife* (27:53)
2. Right Off > Sanctuary (10:30)
*First recorded performance
Miles Davis (trumpet)
Carlos Garnett (soprano sax)
Reggie Lucas (guitar)
Khalil Balakrishna (electric sitar)
Cedric Lawson (organ)
Michael Henderson (electric bass)
Al Foster (drums)
Mtume (conga, percussion)
Badal Roy (tabla)