From Dave Liebman’s inaugural gig at the former Fillmore East in January and the addition of Lonnie Liston Smith and Pete Cosey to the lineup in the spring through a slimmed-down ultra-psychedelic tour of Japan and finally a marathon euro trip that saw the working group shapeshift its sound night after night, 1973 was as pivotal as it gets in the Miles Davis electric era. And at 32 circulating tapes (only one of which has seen an official release) it was also the most exhaustively documented year of his career.
This performance in Bordeaux marks the final night of the Newport Jazz Festival in Europe tour and the band’s last recorded gig of 1973. True to form, this tour-ending show stuns. What the audience tape lacks in fidelity, the performance recoups in abundance, playing like a highlight reel of a phenomenal year and one that continues to reveal new turf from end to end.
The groove falls into place effortlessly as the band starts “Turnaroundphrase” and Pete Cosey unleashes hell within the first 30 seconds before following Miles around like an echo and whirring up chaotic energy that’s almost too much for the trumpeter to solo over. The band segues into and out of “Tune in 5” with Miles regaining direction with a few expertly-timed pauses but more or less allowing the band to head wherever it pleases. Track indexes are hardly guideposts until a long segue into “Ife” mark’s the set’s heady midsection where Mtume and Reggie Lucas lock in on conga and guitar in the right channel while Liebman drifts overtop on flute. Roadworn of nearly all the haunting majesty that sprawled it to over 30 minutes just months earlier, “Ife” is spare, almost causal until Miles lights a fire about 7 minutes in and Cosey and Mtume lock in for a gobsmacking 10-second freakout at 11:25.
“For Dave” lives up to its name as the band lays out a ferocious evolving groove beneath Liebman on tenor before a tape flips drops us back just as Cosey wraps what sounded like a killer. Miles takes control toward the back half with an extended solo before Mtume locks in on the “Calypso Frelimo” segue and Miles smudges the air with some heavily distorted horror show organ. The tune’s back half is an embarrassment of riches as the septet bends and renews the theme like an ouroboros.
“Right Off” kicks in with the flip of a switch before a quick pause sends the audience rapturous. The tape cuts just as the band returns but even incomplete, this is a phenomenal document.
Get the tape
1. Band warming up (:09)
2. Turnaroundphrase (8:27)
3. Tune in 5 (4:17)
4. Turnaroundphrase (5:12)
5. Tune in 5 (6:29)
6. Ife (12:44)
7. For Dave [Mr. Foster] (10:07)
8. Calypso Frelimo (10:16)
9. Right Off (inc.) (0:53)
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)