Miles Davis demanded three things of Pete Cosey when the guitarist joined his band in the spring of 1973:
The first was to move upfront, because the first day I went to play with him I set my table up at the back near the rhythm section. He said “No, no – I want you up front.” The other thing was that he asked me to turn up [the volume]. I was always used to blending and having a balance. I didn’t know what he expected in terms of going over the top with the sound. So when he asked me to turn up, that’s all he had to say! From then on I was in the t-zone [in your face]. One time, one of the guys said “Congratulations man, I’ve never heard music that loud. You actually made my teeth jangle!” And the third thing he said was: “Sit there and look black!”Pete Cosey interview from “The Last Miles”
This brief audience tape from Seattle’s Paramount Theater captures a slice of Cosey’s debut as a member of Miles’ working band – a crucial document if there ever was one. Following a pair of shows in Vancouver and Portland, Miles added the guitarist to a lineup that now included a pre-Cosmic Echoes Lonnie Liston Smith on organ; a short-lived ten-piece band that was the trumpeter’s largest working group since his early Birdland dates with Charlie Parker. Despite its size, the band was remarkably nimble – allowing the music to breathe and evolve with ease as the front line overlaid solos that flowed into and out of one another along an unbroken thread. Just masterful stuff from a criminally under-documented live ensemble.
The tape picks up as “Ife” crawls to life, its gooey, elastic groove deep in the band’s comfort zone while Smith smudges the stage with the Yamaha organ. Solos from Miles and Dave Liebman float to the surface and dovetail one another with not so much as a seam between them before Miles restates the theme and sets the stage for Cosey – his solo the equivalent of a new universe being created in real time. The air shifts, almost audibly within the first few bars as the band tightens the groove and a new path unspools before us. As Cosey wraps, Miles returns, his playing transformed as if to meet the guitarist halfway until the spell breaks and the groove gives way to a quick shuffle that’s miles from wherever we just traveled. The tune collapses into a wild percussion and sitar-led coda that bleeds into “Zimbabwe”, making its first appearance on tape and little more than a tension-building vamp in this early stage. The tape fades as it reaches a fevered peak, but fear not – we’ll return here often.
This is a brief tape for sure, but it contains multitudes.
Get the tape
1. Ife (25:47)
2. Zimbabwe* [incomplete] (7:40)
*First recorded performance
Miles Davis (trumpet)
Dave Liebman (soprano, tenor, flute)
Pete Cosey (guitar, percussion)
Reggie Lucas (guitar)
Khalil Balakrishna (electric sitar)
Lonnie Liston Smith (organ)
Michael Henderson (electric bass)
Al Foster (drums)
Mtume (conga, percussion)
Badal Roy (tabla)