The back stretch of the Miles Davis septet’s Japan > Euro summer tour brought them to the Adriatic coastal town of Pescara for an outdoor festival at the Parco delle Naiadi. Five days removed from a technically challenging but fascinating gig in Paris, the band followed a Keith Jarrett solo set with a truly Jekyll & Hyde performance – the first half a relatively straightforward slab of heavy funk followed by a two-song closing set that’s easily the most gripping, avant-garde 58 minutes of music we’ve heard from an electric Miles lineup.
The audience tape was presumably recorded stage left in close proximity to Reggie Lucas’ amplifier, pushing his constantly wah’d rhythm guitar to the front of the mix. Though a bit overpowering at times, it reveals how crucial this dual-guitar lineup was to the band’s framework, as well as the less-than-subtle James Brown influence that lurked just below the surface.
After an overlong MC intro, “Turnaroundphrase” takes its time gaining steam until Dave Liebman pulls it all into focus with a soaring soprano solo. Once the flame’s been lit an almost proto-metal “Tune in 5” follows, bookended by some of the heaviest interplay we’ve heard thus far from Lucas and Pete Cosey. Dig how Miles masterfully pulls the music down to a whisper for a ferocious solo between the guitar battles. An ultra long “Untitled Original 730424c” closes the first set with a meandering, often monotonous groove centered around Lucas’ propulsive funk guitar. It’s often hard to tell where this one is headed but Miles clearly liked what he heard – letting it unspool across a hearty 18+ minutes.
A noisy crowd scurries to their seats as “Ife” emerges from the depths. In no hurry, the intro sprawls and meanders before Miles steps behind the organ to right the ship and send it stratospheric. Liebman, Cosey and Miles swap multiple solos as the tune jumps from peak to impossible peak, each more heady than the next – though some debate the final five minutes are a different tune entirely, Michael Henderson’s familiar four-note bass groove is the common thread. Despite the longest “Ife” on record at an astonishing 37+ minutes, the closing “Tune in 5” is the evening’s highlight. Fractured nearly unrecognizable with a barely-there skeletal groove, the 20-minute closer is simply wave upon wave of texture and pulse until Mtume and Miles burn it all down with an extended abstract drum machine / organ battle. The audience grows restless as the pair wed Can with Throbbing Gristle, its background chatter overlaying the music like a layer of found sound while Mtume rides an exotica drum machine groove into the sun.
This is new turf right here. An unmissable tape.
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1. Introduction (1:21)
2. Turnaroundphrase (19:23)
3. Tune in 5 (13:16)
4. Untitled Original 730424c (19:10)
5. Ife (37:35)
6. Tune in 5 (20:14)
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)