10/17/1973 Paul’s Mall

Following a summer tour of Japan and Europe and a couple of studio sessions that would later be collected on the Complete on the Corner Sessions box, the Miles Davis septet returned to Paul’s Mall in Boston a remarkably different band than the one that performed at the venue just over a year previous. Where Miles’ nine-piece band often teetered on the verge of chaos as it wrestled with the rough textures and polyrhythms of the yet-to-be-released On the Corner LP, the relatively spare 1973 ensemble offers a master class in cohesion, tension and release, and frequently jaw-dropping musicality.

With Miles’ predilection for rehearsing for tours with a multi-night club stand, the string of mid-October dates at Paul’s Mall from which this tape originates served as the band’s warmup for the European tour that began the following week. While session notes suggest the availability of a second tape from a separate night, this recording offers an exhilarating hour-long slice of the band’s October 17th performance as broadcast by WCBN FM.

Absent of a driving, upbeat first set that likely included a “Turnaroundphrase”, “Untitled Original 730424c” and at least one run through of “Tune in 5”, the tape drops us into the dark heart of the brooding second set beginning with “Ife” and the band in full flight. Dialed in with the intent and intensity of a studio session, it’s clear the septet’s in no hurry as the percussion heavy intro slowly shifts and evolves until Miles’ horn enters and solidifies it all. Pete Cosey’s solos here are outstanding, particularly his use of the whammy bar/wah pedal combo to create deep human-like vocalizations beginning around 16:20. The band transitions to “Agharta Prelude” on a dime, with a well-greased Al Foster and Mtume slipping into the 5/4 “Tune in 5” groove about 2:40 in while the others jam “Agharta Prelude” overtop for a good five minutes.

Though Miles’ cues are nearly imperceptible, the segue into “Zimbabwe” is seamless. The music feels overwhelmingly organic as the band downshifts into the “Zimbabwe” mode – neither rushed or forced into shape with Cosey adding some beautifully spacious chords underfoot. The groove switches to a gallop in the tape’s final minutes before peaking and slowly fading amid applause – given the intensity of the previous hour, its hard to imagine the show ends here but unfortunately, this is our stop. An upper echelon tape if there ever was one.

Get the tape / Lossless
1. Ife (34:06)
2. Agharta Prelude (13:17)
3. Zimbabwe (11:22)

Lineup
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)