Following a three-night run at San Francisco’s Keystone Korner, the Miles Davis septet high-tailed it down to Los Angeles for four nights at the Troubadour in West Hollywood – a week’s worth of nightly gigs aimed at prepping the band for a three-week tour of Japan that began on January 22. For those looking to understand the band’s headspace leading into the February 1st shows that produced the Agharta and Pangaea LPs and the phenomenal Japanese dates surrounding them, these California tapes complete the picture.
Documented on an unknown night of the band’s Troubadour run, the 44-minute audience tape is a relatively brief one, but judging from the dramatic arc of the three tunes presented, captures nearly the complete set. Like the recent Keystone Korner tape, the fidelity here is passable but the performance is astonishing. Reggie Lucas is prominent in the mix for a welcome change, his wah’d guitar playfully swirling around Al Foster and Michael Henderson as the trio anchor the set with an ever-evolving groove. Fading in on a long stretch of Miles on unaccompanied organ and some brief laughter (a nice bit of levity for a live Miles tape), the band throws itself into “Turnaroundphrase” with abandon, growing increasingly intense beneath solos from Miles and Sonny Fortune until the wheels nearly come off amid a chorus of wha’d guitars and trumpet. Some impressive dual guitar interplay bubbles to the surface once the mania settles and Cosey begins layering theremin-like sustained notes overtop around 13 minutes in before a seamless handoff to Sonny Fortune on flute begins a long, dreamy segue into “Ife”.
Miles joins in on organ to support the transition (his ability to accompany on the instrument rather than dominate has grown exponentially) and Fortune continues on flute as the band constructs an alien landscape underfoot, eventually dubbing out the tune’s mid section with some tape echo trails and a heady percussion jam. “Ife” builds to a filthy psych guitar freakout down the back stretch until Cosey takes over to guide the transition into “Tune in 5” largely unaccompanied on another guitar + Synthi excursion to deep space. Fortune and Mtume emerge from a full-on guitar assault with a gorgeous flute + percussion duo that leads into the set’s final act; oscillating between waves of peak intensity and stretches of near silence, the band lumbers to a close like a gargantuan machine slowly shutting down as the tape fades.
Get the tape
1. Band warming up (1:16)
2. Turnaroundphrase (16:27)
3. Ife (18:07)
4. Tune in 5 (13:34)
Miles Davis (trumpet, organ)
Sonny Fortune (soprano, alto, flute)
Pete Cosey (guitar, synth, percussion)
Reggie Lucas (guitar)
Michael Henderson (electric bass)
Al Foster (drums)
Mtume (conga, percussion)