On the heels of a performance in Pescara that saw the band take avant funk into some truly uncharted turf, the Miles Davis septet rolled into Verona for another open-air show at an ancient Roman theater on the bank of the Adige. Though outdoor sets were surely a welcome break from the arenas and staid concert halls to which the band had grown accustomed, a handful of venues seemed woefully unprepared for the volume coming off the stage as evidenced by this uncharacteristically uneven pair of sets in Verona.
Despite a dodgy stage mix and jagged grooves that often fail to coalesce it’s impressive to hear the band soldier on through a gig that’s clearly a struggle from the outset. The show’s also an odd one for Miles, who abandons the organ for reasons unknown and sounds downright uninspired on trumpet throughout. A dark night for sure, but not without its bright spots.
A chaotic “Turnaroundphrase” > “Tune in 5” open the set, nearly unspooling into a free-for-all as the band struggles to coalesce. Miles rights the ship somewhat by reducing the volume and tightening the groove, but his own solos are meandering and never quite achieve liftoff. A couple of well executed stop/starts midway through “Tune in 5” allow the set to briefly click into focus before shifting to an extended “Untitled Original 730424c” – an unexpected highlight of the night, it’s the only tune in which the band lays back and allows one another to explore the terrain. Still, it too loses steam before Mtume’s rhythm box solo draws a curtain on the set.
Our taper seems to have left the mic buried deep in his coat pocket as we begin the second set with another brutal mix. Despite Al Foster sounding like crushed aluminum behind the kit, there’s clearly more intent in the first few minutes of “Ife” than the entirety of the first set. We peak with some superb guitar interplay beneath solos from Miles and Dave Liebman, but things get askew as Miles steamrolls the tune’s exhilerating peaks and valleys in favor of repeating the theme ad infitum across an exhausting 30+ minutes before both band and audience lose interest.
Perhaps our first non-essential listen, and a glimpse of the darkness to come.
Get the tape
1. Turnaroundphrase (11:59)
2. Tune in 5 (7:44)
3. Untitled Original 730424c (16:52)
4. Ife [incomplete] (32:21)
Miles Davis (trumpet)
Dave Liebman (soprano, tenor, flute)
Pete Cosey (guitar, percussion)
Reggie Lucas (guitar)
Michael Henderson (electric bass)
Al Foster (drums)
Mtume (conga, percussion)