Miles Davis’ only recorded stopover in Barcelona did not get off to a promising start. With the band’s gear held up in customs en route from Italy, the septet found the promoter’s replacement instruments unsuitable (Miles reportedly dubbed them “Spanish shit”) and canceled the first of two performances at the lavish Palau de la Musica.
Assuming the canceled gig was set for November 11th, this audience tape from the following evening captures the band reunited with their tools of destruction and well energized after an unexpected day off. And while the rough recording leaves much to be desired, the performance itself is astonishing – easily matching the form, effortless flow, and ferocity of the previous week’s Belgrade show and suggesting what appeared to be a one-off phenomenal gig was more a headlong dive into a new direction.
The tape fades in on “Turnaroundphrase” already at full bore as Pete Cosey’s solo takes shape – oddly enough, while the tone and texture of the guitars remain fairly distinguishable on this audience tape, the notes themselves are mainly a wash. Still, it’s clear “Turnaroundphrase” is a maniac stew of pure energy that the band miraculously transitions into “Tune in 5” as if by studio edit. Al Foster and Michael Henderson lock in hard on the 5/4 groove while Miles, Cosey, and Dave Liebman run free overtop, sculpting feedback, noise, and effects-heavy rhythmic squeals into something truly otherworldly. The stop/starts in the tune’s back half are exceptional, previewing the sort of intense serenity the band would explore so expertly on Agharta and Pangea in early ’75.
Foster’s drum break brings us slamming back into “Turnaroundphrase” as if the sidestep into “Tune in 5” were a dream – the reprise perfected. Exploring new grooves as if taking them for test runs, “Turnaroundphrase” locks in beautifully around 6:30 before melting into “Ife”, with Mtume almost mimicking a drum machine with hand-operated percussion and Miles dropping in some heady color on organ as the tune builds steam. Having reached cruising altitude, the front line drops some incredible solos throughout “Ife” with Liebman masterfully holding his own as Miles throws some atonal curveballs beneath him. As Ife unravels, Foster returns to “Tune in 5” just long enough for Henderson to briefly tease “Calypso Frelimo” and “Honky Tonk” overtop the 5/4 before the curtain draws on Mtume’s closing solo.
Miles returned to the Palau de la Musica the following night for an unscheduled guest spot during BB King’s headlining set. Dressed as though he stepped off the cover of On the Corner, Miles glides onstage trumpet-less before King summons a horn and coaxes him into a perfunctory solo overtop his 1952 hit, “You Know I Love You”. As stark a contrast with the Afrofuturist blowout the previous night as you could imagine.
Get the tape
1. Turnaroundphrase (9:23)
2. Tune in 5 (9:01)
3. Turnaroundphrase (9:42)
4. Ife (13:16)
5. Tune in 5 (4:36)
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)