Miles’ fifth and final London tape of his electric period came just months after a July performance at the same venue, the historic Rainbow Theatre. November of ’73 was a memorable month at the Rainbow, with Pink Floyd laying down a complete performance of Dark Side of the Moon on the 4th, Neil Young and the Santa Monica Flyers dropping in for a tequila-soaked run through of Tonight’s the Night the following eve, and Miles’ gig on the 19th sandwiched between multi-night visits from Santana and Yes. Man, what a time to be alive.
Like the septet’s July performance at the Rainbow, this late-November tape arrives courtesy of Dave Liebman, who documented the proceedings with an on-stage Revox and a pair of mics for a bit of welcome stereo separation. Unlike that July tape, this recording is a little dodgy – muffled just enough to make this tape more of a curiosity than a necessity. Still, with the septet operating at peak performance there’s plenty of gold here if your ears are willing to put in the work.
By most accounts the band performed a pair of sets on this night, making it likely a one-off headlining gig outside the domain of the Newport Festival in Europe tour. The tape itself is split into two segments, capturing sizeable portions of each set but with the front and back ends of most tunes trimmed to eliminate the transitions between them. In short, it’s a mess. But it beats no tape at all.
With Mtume taking the reins on “Turnaroundphrase”, Miles lets the groove slowly take shape before dropping the theme like a sketch then re-forming and ping pong-ing it with Liebman throughout the tune. Check out how the almost dub-like mix isolates Pete Cosey’s playful interaction with Liebman during the soprano solo – the ears on this band are massive. A mountain of sound crashes down around Cosey mid mind melt as the long segue into “Tune in 5” takes shape – though a splice robs us of the full transition, the tune slowly dissolves into a long stretch of quiet ambience. Almost a throwback to the mid-set “Sanctuary” cooldown that Miles would use to heighten the drama of sets in ’70 & ’71.
“Ife” slowly rises from the ruins of “Tune in 5” with Cosey’s gentle fret noises and some some heady organ abstraction from Miles until a slow, loose-limbed groove settles in and Cosey enters orbit. You can hear the septet planting the seeds for “He Loved Him Madly” here in real time.
Mtume achieves singularity with a drum machine as “Calypso Frelimo” begins, but the typically epic tune hangs around barely long enough for Miles to state the theme. Treating the back half of the set almost as a medly, a ~7-minute “Calyspo” transforms into a tidy “For Dave” that’s merely a segue into “Right Off” – kicking in amazingly tight, scrappy and skeletal in construction. A peak Cosey solo spills into a brief “Funk” that closes, fittingly, with an Mtume solo that’s nearly half the tune’s length.
Notes: All tunes are incomplete. Segment 1 includes tracks 1-4. Segment 2 includes 5-7.
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)