Propelled by a Japanese tour that saw the band more focused and exploratory than ever, the Miles Davis septet made a memorable stopover in Lebanon before storming Europe for two weeks of festivals. The brief tour resulted in no less than six tapes of varying quality, the first and highest-fidelity of which is this two-set date at the Montreux Jazz Fest – officially released in 2002 on the massive Complete Miles Davis at Montreux box. While the entire show was presumably filmed for television, only “Ife” has surfaced, though at nearly 28 minutes it carries the drama of a feature film.
With Mtume and Michael Henderson the lone survivors of the septet that Miles last brought to the continent in the fall of 1971, the music on this trip is far headier and abstract than the band’s previous visit. Judging from the crowd response here in Montreux, it was bitter medicine for those who came unprepared.
The band burns through some technical difficulties through much of “Turnaroundphrase” to start the first set, with Henderson holding down the core of the groove with ease while Cosey and Miles get playful. Between mimicking squeals of feedback to gorgeous un-effected tones toward the back half, Miles’ range is remarkable across these sets. “Tune in 5” follows, with Pete Cosey and Reggie Lucas making up ground with some truly psychedelic interplay, building intensity across a solid eight minutes before Miles kills the momentum dead with a series of stop/start cues. The crowd grows audibly restless as Miles reduces the band to a simmer for the tune’s second half, then floods the air with disapproval at the close of the set.
The follow-up set sounds as though it were beamed in from a different planet. “Ife” builds tauntingly slow before Miles steps behind the organ as the groove reaches cruising altitude. He exchanges some amazing fractured call and response note clusters with Mtume on drum machine before going all in with elbows on the keys behind a devilish grin. Beyond enjoying himself, Miles seems to gather strength as he directs the band from the keyboard. The live debut of “Calypso Frelimo” springs to life with a whiff of the familiar organ chords – the band’s surprisingly tight despite the tune being little more than a sketch, and they feel their way around with remarkable confidence. The groove settles into a bounce around five minutes in, and Miles and Cosey spar for a bit before Miles jumps back on organ and guides the band as they deconstruct it beautifully, piece by piece through stops and starts while the audience stays rapt.
Miles cues “Untitled Original 730424c” to close the set (a tune we first heard on night 2 in Tokyo) and give Dave Liebman a well-earned spotlight as he throws down a ferocious solo. Cosey takes over and pushes the band further before Miles reigns it back in and lays down his best horn playing of the night overtop. Henderson weaves deftly between Cosey, Miles and Lucas as the groove peaks and slowly gives way to Mtume’s brief percussion coda. An absolute master class in intensity and restraint.
Buy it (official release)
1. Turnaroundphrase (16:34)
2. Tune in 5 (19:53)
3. Ife (27:23)
4. Calypso Frelimo (16:00)
5. Untitled Original 730424c (15:31)
Miles Davis (trumpet, organ)
Dave Liebman (soprano, tenor, flute)
Pete Cosey (guitar, percussion)
Reggie Lucas (guitar)
Michael Henderson (electric bass)
Al Foster (drums)
Mtume (conga, percussion)