After three nights in Rio de Janeiro, the last of which was documented in a phenomenal 40-minute tape, the Miles Davis octet continued its tour of Brazil with a trio of shows at the Theatro Municipal in São Paulo. Originally booked to perform May 28 and 31, June 1 (Tuesday, Friday, Saturday), the band was forced to reschedule the Friday night gig after Miles, clearly still riding high after his 48th birthday celebration on May 26th, overindulged between shows.
I was in São Paulo, Brazil, and had been drinking all this vodka and I smoked some marijuana-which I never did, but I was having such a great time… Plus I took some Percodan and was doing a lot of coke. When I got back to my hotel room, I thought I was having a heart attack. I called the front desk and they sent up a doctor and he put me in the hospital. They had tubes up my nose and IVs attached to me. The band was scared; everyone thought I was going to die. I thought to myself. This is it. But I pulled through that one … They had to cancel the show that night and reschedule it the following night. I played and blew everybody’s mind I was playing so good.From Miles the Autobiography, as told to Quincy Troupe
True to his word, Miles was indeed in rare form on the night of June 1st, with both sets documented in full via saxophonist Dave Liebman’s on-stage taping rig as well as in a brief B&W film clip by Brazilian filmmaker Andrea Tonacci (amazingly, the only known footage of the band in 1974). Like the tape from Rio on May 25th, Liebman’s on-stage recordings of these three nights in São Paulo make for a captivating listening experience – capturing the band at the peak of its power with an incredible depth and clarity that rivals Miles’ official live albums. Fittingly, these superb tapes are also the last to feature Liebman, who had recently recorded his excellent Drum Ode LP and would be replaced by Sonny Fortune when the octet resumed touring in late July. Essential documents by any measure.
Night 1: May 28
In terms of recording quality, the first night in São Paulo is a notch below the tapes from June 1st and 2nd, though don’t let that deter you – the performance itself is blindingly intense. “Funk” pulls itself together from a jumble of organ clusters and a wash of drum machine to coalesce into a powerful strut a few minutes in. Though Pete Cosey (left channel), Dominique Gaumont and Reggie Lucas (both in the right) are nicely balanced in the mix, it’s tough to discern who’s who as the trio interacts as if merged into a single organism – by 7 minutes in we’ve achieved bliss, with Cosey and Gaumont soloing in unison across the stereo field.
Miles pulls things to simmer to lead the segue into “Ife” before launching into an extended solo with the band goading him on with whoops and hollers as a slow groove roils underfoot. A clumsy edit robs us of the transition from Liebman’s solo into the tune’s fascinating tail section that’s little more than a bass riff, percussion and Cosey on thumb piano until Miles enters on organ and the tune picks up speed to transform into a knotty, Tago Mago loop. The guitars riff on “Willie Nelson” for a stretch as “Tune in 5” takes shape but the band fights to regain the focus and cohesion of the set’s early moments, and after a few brief stop/starts the set closes in a haze of manipulated feedback and Mtume’s solo finale.
Get the tape / Lossless
1. Funk [Prelude, Pt. 1] (12:50)
2. Ife (incomplete) (15:38)
3. Turnaroundphrase (3:04)
4. Tune in 5 (6:30)
Note on the tape: “Ife” is split into two separate tracks (intro + conclusion) and includes a large gap between sections. “Turnaroundphrase” and “Tune in 5” are combined into a single track.
Night 2: June 1
Renewed with the thrill of having outrun the reaper, the octet’s performance on June 1st is genuinely one of the best tapes of Miles’ electric period. As the curtain rises on “Funk”, Michael Henderson overlays the bassline from “Yesternow” overtop (reviving the Tribute to Jack Johnson cut that had been absent since November of 71) while Gaumont and Cosey swap James Brown riffs and Mtume smears the drum machine across the palette. Miles and Liebman sync for a powerful melody statement before the band takes flight, committing to the groove for 20+ minutes of filthy funk with searing triple guitar peaks.
Things turn ultra psychedelic as Liebman solos and Miles’ organ pulls it all into the orbit of “Ife”, crawling to life with more drum machine and lazer gun guitar squeals across the stereo field. A freakish guitar tapestry unspools as Miles solos on horn across the midsection and Cosey channels Eddie Hazel in an emotional, downright terrifying solo in its closing minutes. A singular “Ife” if there ever was one. Incredible solos from Liebman and Gaumont take “Right Off” to new realms, Miles jumps in with a wicked turn on horn to signal the end of the set, and Mtume shuts it down with conga solo that echoes off the opposite wall.
“Calypso Frelimo” starts the second set nearly unrecognizable and unbelievably tight with Henderson and Gaumont trading riffs until the guitarist unleashes hell in the right channel. Technical demons seem to briefly slow the band to a crawl as Lucas’ guitar begins to sputter but Miles maintains the momentum with a bit of lysergic organ, the band regains flight and an incredible triple-guitar assalt erupts around 9:30.
With Lucas inaudible and likely absent from “Calypso” onward, Cosey (left channel) and Gaumont (right) level up – turning “Turnaroundphrase” > “Tune in 5” > “Turnaroundphrase” into a tightly wound bundle of heavy psychedelia with changes so tight they sound like tape splices. The way Miles and Liebman sync for the theme statement is magical, telepathic stuff. Cosey lays waste to the entire first half of “Agharta Prelude” and Henderson falls into a beautiful, minimal bass loop as Liebman segues into a gargantuan “For Dave”. Stretching across 25+ minutes, the Liebman showpiece is a universe unto itself, peaking early with another massive Cosey testament and wrapping with a hushed solo from Miles on a squeaky wah pedal before Mtume caps the phenomenal night with his longest closing solo on tape.
This tape is unmissable.
Get the tape / Lossless
1. Funk [Prelude, Pt. 1] (21:49)
2. Ife (12:21)
3. Right Off (12:51)
4. Calypso Frelimo (12:27)
5. Turnaroundphrase (4:34)
6. Tune in 5 (4:53)
7. Turnaroundphrase (1:40)
8. Agharta Prelude (8:37)
9. For Dave [Mr. Foster] (25:56)
Night 3: June 2
The final tape from São Paulo is a brief but potent 35-minute slice. As Henderson again layers “Yesternow” overtop “Funk” and Lucas and Gaumont merge into a single unit, Miles and Liebman sync and spar like shadow boxers across the tune’s first half. With Cosey on thumb piano and percussion, Gaumont leads the band through a Univibe-heavy Band of Gypsys back section that slowly rearranges itself into the recorded debut of “Untitled Original 740419” – a still-unreleased jam reportedly laid down at a studio session on April 19, 1974.
While Miles lays the groundwork with a beautifully restrained horn melody and Cosey finally joins in on guitar to color the air with atmospherics in the left channel, Henderson and Foster slowly built the skeletal groove underfoot. As the spare “He Love Him Madly” looms on the horizon (the band would record the tribute to the recently-departed Duke Ellington on June 19th), the untitled tune gracefully deconstructs itself as it evolves, with Miles teasing the ghost of a familiar melody in its closing minutes until the tape ends abruptly.
Get the tape / Lossless
1. Funk [Prelude, Pt. 1] (20:05)
2. Untitled Original 740419 (incomplete) (15:03)
Miles Davis (trumpet, organ)
Dave Liebman (soprano, tenor, flute)
Pete Cosey (guitar, percussion – left channel)
Reggie Lucas (guitar – right channel)
Dominique Gaumont (guitar – right channel)
Michael Henderson (electric bass)
Al Foster (drums)
Mtume (conga, percussion)