While Miles spent the spring and summer of 1972 recording his On the Corner LP and much of the material that would define the second phase of his electric period, documentation of his live activity from January through early September is cloudy at best. A brief fall tour yielded a relative abundance of riches, including a pair of radio broadcasts, a double live LP, and a couple of rough, but enjoyable audience tapes, one of which captures this performance at the Frost Amphitheater in Palo Alto. A tape rumored to have been recorded by Wally Heider Studios is yet to surface, making this audience tape the band’s final live document of 1972.
The unusual double bill of Miles’ nine-piece ensemble and cosmic cowboys, New Riders of the Purple Sage was the last show at the venue until late 1974 – Stanford officials suspended all concerts after pre-show fistfights and gate crashers overwhelmed Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputies. By contrast, the crowd sounds fairly tame and the band drops one of its most restrained sets of the tour, so the vibe had clearly mellowed by this point in the afternoon.
The tape cuts in just as “Rated X” reaches a full boil and slowly gives way to “Honky Tonk” – its brief free-for-all intro on an entirely different planet than the swelling tension buildup that used to consume nearly half the tune. Never quite achieving liftoff despite a superbly wah’d solo from Carlos Garnett on soprano, it transitions into “Right Off” as if by tape splice, with Cedric Lawson throwing down an organ solo to rival Herbie Hancock’s ripper on the studio version. Though nearly outpaced by their own tempo, this is where the band finally settles in and Miles and Garnett step up with their wildest work of the afternoon – the organ under Garnett’s solo gets especially whacked out here.
As a remarkably loose “Black Satin” melts into “Ife”, the band snaps into focus as though the preceding 35 minutes were merely a primer. Here in just its second live recording, “Ife” is already a colossus – brooding and gooey in its first half then coalescing around a tight groove during the second movement. As the tune cools to its spaced out finale the chatty crowd grows anxious and the tape abruptly cuts.
Coincidentally, a horrific crash in his Lamborghini just days later would bring Miles’ 1972 live schedule to a similarly abrupt close.
Get the tape
1. Rated X [incomplete] (4:05)
2. Honky Tonk (7:58)
3. Right Off (12:54)
4. Black Satin (9:50)
5. Ife (16:28)
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)