With many stops on the 1973 Newport Jazz Festival in Europe so lavishly documented in broadcast fidelity and full-color film, shows like the septet’s November 2nd stop in Ludwigshafen are a relative anomaly: no photos have surfaced, no video circulates, and a cavernous audience tape is our only evidence. Thankfully, our taper is a good one, capturing both sets more or less in their entirety in front of a crowd that may have bitten off more than it could chew.
As if documented from the furthest reaches of the Friedrich-Ebert-Halle arena, the first set opens up with the band sounding a mile away before we zoom in for a better listen around a minute 30. Forget about focusing on individual instruments – it’s a fool’s errand with this mix. Instead, take in the band as a whole and zero in on the relentless chug of “Turnaroundphrase” as Miles gives the septet room to jam and stretch the groove at will. The long segue into “Tune in 5” is remarkable, with the band overlapping the tunes like a long cross fade before Miles drops the intensity mid solo and pushes the whole affair into a standalone jam. Dave Liebman solos beautifully atop a halting groove that opens up and gets heavy as Miles takes over before cueing “Untitled Original” on a dime. Miles’ stage direction is particularly great throughout the first set, using stop/starts with precision, and dropping segues that allow it all to flow with ease.
“Ife” crawls to life in skeletal form with just Mtume on congas, Liebman on flute and Miles adding theremin-like squalls of color with the ribbon controller of the Yamaha organ. A stretch of horror show psychedelia sets in until Miles’ horn solo again opens us into a new universe and the band briefly drifts back into “Tune in 5” before Miles restates the “Ife” theme and rights the ship to end the set.
Miles jumps into second set opener “Right Off” ready to spar, dancing around the groove before slicing it up with some brutal stop/starts as the band comes surprisingly close to mimicking the album version. A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cut throws us into “Funk” with Reggie Lucas floating atop the mix as he threads the needle of a Cosey solo that transitions to Liebman with the precision of a relay handoff. The crowd is rapt as “Funk” is chopped into bits but turns rowdy as Mtume takes an unaccompanied solo. Miles pulls the intensity to a simmer as he smudges the air in preparation for “Calypso Frelimo” with another gorgeous spare intro of organ and percussion and Liebman squashes a few catcalls with a violent tenor solo.
The septet doubles down as the crowd grows increasingly impatient, slowing their pacing and keeping the volume tauntingly low. “For Dave” turns whisper quiet as the band channels the ambiance of In a Silent Way and Miles contributes a brief but inspired solo that’s among his best of the night. Mtume seems to delight in stretching his closing solo over a crowd that’s inexplicably calling for an encore before the music finishes.
Get the tape
1. Turnaroundphrase (13:31)
2. Tune in 5 (11:22)
3. Untitled Original 730424c (6:38)
4. Ife (29:44)
5. Right Off (incomplete) (10:26)
6. Funk (Prelude pt. 1) (14:39)
7. Calypso Frelimo (15:34)
8. For Dave (Mr. Foster) (18:45)
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)