The site of stunning electric gigs in 1969 and 1971, Miles returned to the Berlin Philharmonie for a pair of shows on the first of November, 1973. Recorded for radio and television by West Berlin public broadcaster, Sender Freies Berlin, the evening’s first show was released in full on the 2015 set, Miles Davis at Newport 1955–1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 and captured in an expansive photo set by Jan Persson (excerpts below). Video of the set surfaces occasionally and I’ve included the currently available clips further down. It’s unknown if the later 10pm set was recorded, but there’s no tape in circulation.
Having built momentum across the first week of its Euro tour with standout shows in Stockholm and Copenhagen, the Miles Davis septet unleashes hell on what was surely an unsuspecting crowd of Berliners. Following an introduction by London club owner, Ronnie Scott, the band explodes into “Turnaroundphrase” with literal tape-saturating intensity as Miles stabs through the tapestry with remarkable ferocity, folded over and nearly disappearing into a comically long scarf as he channels spirits unknown through the wah pedal. Don’t bother adjusting your receiver, the entirety of this official tape remains firmly in the red thanks to either the band’s overwhelming stage volume or a little too much gain on the soundboard – any route, Sony’s choice to release such a blown-out tape is definitely a bold move.
Captured in video footage loaded with hallucinatory jump cuts, the band builds toward a peak that crumbles into a brief “Tune in 5” as Pete Cosey punctuates the churning groove with a big assist from his Mu-Tron III envelope filter. Miles mercifully reduces things to a simmer before stepping behind the organ for a shaky “Ife” intro while Dave Liebman charts a dark course on flute that sets up a round of powerful solos from Miles, Cosey, and himself (on tenor) that form the set’s molten core. Video of this 13-minute stretch is astonishing. As if emerging from a trance, the septet stumbles into an “Untitled Original” that crests with a brutal bit of interplay between Reggie Lucas and Cosey until Miles begins deconstructing the jam with a momentum-killing series of stops and starts. A skeletal “Tune in 5” briefly re-emerges but quickly gives way to an extended conga outro from Mtume as the curtain falls.
Prepare for this one however you must – it’s a monster of a set.
1. Ronnie Scott introduction (0:36)
2. Turnaroundphrase (10:57)
3. Tune in 5 (4:12)
4. Ife (13:54)
5. Untitled Original 730424c (11:31)
6. Tune in 5 (6:07)
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)