Miles’ electric-period performances at Rotterdam’s De Doelen concert hall were regularly among the best shows of the band’s bi-annual Newport Jazz Festival in Europe tour. The November ’69 gig with the Shorter, Corea, Holland and DeJohnette lineup was a magnificent display of telepathy and the final live document of the Lost Quintet, while our tape from late October of ’71 captured Miles’ recently expanded septet in all its ragged glory and an endearingly temperamental Keith Jarrett at his most sublime.
Why Miles’ live groups frequently slayed at the venue is unknown but this document of the 1973 live ensemble may be the most thrilling Rotterdam tape of the bunch, with the band approaching a now-familiar set of tunes as though performing them for the first time. Elevating heady polyrhythms, dizzying textures, and patience over melody and brute force, the 80+ minute suite is the continental divide between the rhythmic complexity of On the Corner and the sculptural beauty of Agharta/Pangaea. Allow your ears to adjust to the fidelity of this audience tape and be rewarded – this is a stunning set.
After a brief intro and some scene-setting chatter from our heroic taper, “Turnaroundphrase” begins sparsely to the point of unrecognizable – slowly taking shape around Al Foster’s relentless kick, a howl of feedback and some haunting organ chords from Miles (a tune on which he typically does not play keys). Miles lets the tune breathe and expand for a few minutes before entering tentatively on horn and stabbing his way through the muddy stage mix that’s pushed the gulping guitars to the fore. Pete Cosey leans in hard on his Mu-Tron III envelope filter throughout the set, mimicking a birdsong as “Turnaroundphrase” transitions to “Tune in 5” while Michael Henderson briefly overlays the “Willie Nelson” riff atop its skeletal 5/4 groove and the horns solo beautifully over waves of pure texture.
“Turnaroundphrase” returns remarkably tight, its pauses punctuated by ecstatic screams from bodies unknown as Miles steps back behind the organ to bring us up to the edge before Liebman enters on flute and Mtume lays the path for a gorgeous “Ife” intro. The tune peaks as Cosey unleashes hell while an otherworldly groove lopes along beneath him and Miles returns to state the theme and send it all caterwauling in a new direction.
A glacial-paced “Right Off” allows the band to gather its bearings before a hard stop into “For Dave” signals the start of the set’s dramatic closing act. Having transformed the Liebman showpiece into essentially an “Ife” reprise, the tune is buoyed by some of Miles’ best organ work of the night and a superb turn from Liebman – his tenor simply oozing out of the rotary speaker. The groove steadily dissolves beneath Miles as he solos mid-tune, but it slowly reforms and mutates in time for Cosey to rip an all-timer before Miles cues the long segue into “Calypso Frelimo”.
A truly bizarre intro takes shape with Liebman clearing the air on flute and Miles going all in the organ’s ribbon controller as Foster and Henderson lock in on a skittering chopped groove. Miles returns from orbit long enough to restate the theme on organ and the band takes to re-building the tune from scratch, reshaping it wholly unrecognizable if not for Miles’ horn statements while it gains speed as though tumbling downhill. The drama’s high but tune itself is relatively brief, collapsing in on itself across a fascinating final five minutes until giving way to Mtume’s closing solo and a heavy cloud of stunned silence.
A phenomenal tape.
Get the tape / Lossless
1. Intro/warmup (1:39)
2. Tunraroundphrase (10:15)
3. Tune in 5 (6:39)
4. Turnaroundphrase (8:59)
5. Ife (16:52)
6. Right Off (13:52)
7. For Dave [Mr. Foster] (16:07)
8. Calypso Frelimo (8:59)
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)