2.7 + 2.8.1975 Tokyo

With 11 shows under its belt, the Miles Davis septet capped its final overseas journey with a trio of shows at Tokyo’s Koseinenkinkaikan Hall – the same venue where its tour of Japan began two weeks earlier. Though the tour’s justifiably remembered for the performances from Osaka that produced the Agharta and Pangaea live LPs, the rapid evolution of the band and the drastically different performances documented across this brief run of shows are equally stunning.

Whereas the septet went all-in on dark, heady abstraction in the tour’s opening nights in Tokyo, by the time it reached Kokura a week later its sets were tight, deeply funky, and outright jubilant. A few days on in Osaka, the band was simply untouchable in its technical prowess, performing as if guided by an invisible hand to produce a quartet of sets that remain futuristic nearly five decades after their final notes faded.

Back in Tokyo for the tour’s finale, the band is new again – radically reshaping familiar material with confidence and swagger, unafraid to truncate epics like “Ife” or “Zimbabwe” down to their essence, or playfully stretch tunes like “Maiysha” to 30 minutes and beyond with long passages of experimentation. A thrilling listen from start to finish, these final dispatches from Tokyo encapsulate everything that made this Japanese tour so exceptional.

2.7 Night One

“Funk” is peculiar out of the gate, driven by Reggie Lucas’ shapeshifting guitar riff and Michael Henderson’s looping ascending figure on the bass – only Miles’ horn riff anchors it to anything familiar. Sonny Fortune uses an octave divider to give his horn a sinister, almost synth-like quality that really shines in the early stop/starts before Lucas takes a rare ripper of a solo in place of Cosey, who gleefully plonks away on a cowbell amid the chaos. Miles returns to blow sheets of sound while the band roils beneath and the tune tumbles to a close in an unrecognizable form without a Cosey solo for the first time on tape.

Miles cues “Maiysha” and the band meanders as if they’ve forgotten how to play the tune for a solid minute and a half until Fortune’s flute melody anchors the drifting vessel. Cosey can finally be heard shredding hard as the band switches to the midsection groove but he’s deep in the background – hard to say if he’s having equipment trouble, or the band’s suffering through a bad mix, but they seem to genuinely relish in being thrown off balance. There’s some great momentum building as the band oscillates between sections and by 12:50 they’ve thrown caution to the wind and seem to jam an entirely different groove as Cosey again tears it up in the distance and Henderson practically solos on bass alongside.

“Ife” is simply psychedelic beyond measure as squalls of feedback, dentist drill synth and textural drum machine level any semblance of the tune itself. Henderson’s bobbing and weaving bass and some beautiful atmospherics from Lucas are Miles’ only melodic anchor as he solos fearlessly before a phenomenal groove develops down the home stretch and the tune draws to a close after a criminally brief run through. The band melts into Zimbabwe to close the set though it’s little more than a quick melody statement over the “Ife” groove. An amazing stretch of music.

A few minutes of audience chatter and band prep set the scene before Miles arrives and the septet lays into “Tunraroundphrase” to rapturous applause as if they recognize the tune – I’m sure more than a few were in attendance for the first round of Tokyo gigs. The pacing is frantic as Miles states the theme overtop before quickly giving way to Cosey – again, relegated to the background here but absolutely volcanic as Al Foster rolls the septet into the back section and a filthy funk groove develops under Fortune’s octave divided solo. Track indexes are merely a suggestion here while Lucas jams the “Willie Nelson” riff overtop Tune in 5 before the band essentially goes rogue – shaping and reshaping the rhythm until collapsing in on itself.

“For Dave” segues impressively from the wreckage, having evolved drastically from the start of the tour into a moody epic front-loaded with powerful solos from Cosey and an extended turn from Miles that lasts nearly the bulk of the tune. Cosey burns it all down as the band begins the long transition into “Mtume” until Miles clears the air with an organ blast and launches into the tune proper. The set closer is a blowout, with the septet loosening up and losing its focus before spinning off its axis and dissolving into a long percussion jam to close the show.

Get the tape (aud) / Lossless (aud)
First set
1. Funk [Prelude Pt. 1] (18:15)
2. Maiysha (18:00)
3. Ife (9:23)
4. Zimbabwe (2:00)

Second set
1. Turnaroundphrase (13:24)
2. Tune in 5 (4:54)
3. For Dave (13:14)
4. Mtume (16:23)

Note: Track indexes on the tape are approximate. Tune lengths listed above are mirrored from Peter Losin’s session notes, which are far more accurate.

2.8 Night Two – Early Show

A powerful extended solo from Miles stretches across the first half of “Calypso Frelimo, setting up one of the tune’s more remarkable run-throughs to start the early show. As on the previous day’s tape, Cosey waits in the shadows, adding percussion until layering in some synth midway through and supporting a phenomenal Lucas solo down the home stretch that weaves itself into “Ife”. While some of the headier accouterments from Cosey and Mtume linger in the background, Fortune’s gorgeous flute intro suggests another epic journey until Miles enters and pulls it to a hush before slowly building to a plateau. Henderson drops a walking bass line as Miles wraps and the momentum drags but Fortune returns on flute to carry it across the finish line.

A few atmospheric organ chords signal “For Dave” and the band dives in amid a howl of feedback. Cosey lays out a synth drone, then settles in for a long solo while the band creates a massive soundscape underfoot. Miles brings it to a hush, dropping dark melodies on horn, then organ, and resetting the band to heighten the drama before the heavy waves return and the tune stops on a dime to close the set.

“Tunraroundphrase” leads off the second set with Miles’ organ frontloading the mix as he bobs, weaves and comps like a bonafide member of the rhythm section under Fortune. Though Cosey remains relegated to the background, he’s absolutely laying waste as the septet hauls ass through “Tunraroundphrase” at a remarkable clip. Lucas and Henderson sync up beautifully on a descending loop as the band layers “Tune in 5” overtop before Miles reduces it to a simmer and begins the transition to Maiysha – our longest recorded version at an astonishing 34 minutes.

The intro is stunning in its restraint as the band gently supports Fortune’s flute into before giving way to the slowly building mid section groove. Stretching each section like taffy the septet uses exhaustion to its advantage as it gives the soloists an uncluttered bed over which to explore new terrain. Dig how they slowly build from a serene In a Silent Way soundscape behind Miles into a snarling Cosey solo with a roadhouse blues backdrop within the span of about 6 minutes. A thrilling universe of sound to cap the night.

Get the tape (aud), Lossless (aud)
BONUS TAPES: Matrix Mix* / Lossless Matrix / Lossless Soundboard (Second Set)
*Liner notes on this unique Matrix Mix at the bottom of this post.

First set
1. Calypso Frelimo (16:45)
2. Ife (11:34)
3. For Dave (11:42)

Second set
1. Turnaroundphrase (10:16)
2. Tune in 5 (6:25)
3. Maiysha (34:40)

Note: Track indexes on the tape are approximate. For accuracy, tune lengths listed above are mirrored from Peter Losin’s session notes.

2.8 Night Two – Late Show

Miles and Cosey consult the EMS Synthi A – February 8, 1975

Details around the septet’s final Japanese gig are scant, but given the 7pm performance was absent from the tour’s promotional material, it was likely a last-minute addition meant to capture the overflow. A show for the diehards and the band most certainly delivered.

This may be the roughest sounding tape of the Tokyo stash but it kicks off with the nastiest “Funk” on record by a long mile, grooving slow, sturdy and assured. Lucas, again front and center in the mix, proves himself essential from the start as he chonks away without a trace of fatigue as the band jams on new melodies within the tune’s structure. Fortune solos like a foghorn as the jam winds down, finally finding the sweet spot with the octave divider to fill out that lower register.

The band segues into another extra-long “Maiysha” as the tape begins to warble, imbuing it all with a sort of trippy chorus effect that mixes beautifully with Cosey’s heavily effected guitar. Miles’ solo is entrancing and the way the band emerges from it back into the groove is exceptional, effortlessly treating each section as if it were a song in itself. Dig the mellow JJ Cale style lick that Lucas begins looping around 18:30.

“Tunraroundphrase” starts the second set with the band in a race to the finish line, grooving incredibly hard and focused and Fortune sounding like a Minimoog on the breaks with his effected horn. With much of the rhythm section reduced to sonic mush, the guitars (particularly Lucas) are pushed to the fore and Cosey explodes out of the speakers during long pauses at 8:10 and again at 9:50 – his tone searing beyond belief as the band overlays “Tune in 5” with a slice of “Willie Nelson” for good measure.

A long percussion break led by Mtume bridges the gap into “For Dave”, where Henderson squeezes upright tones out of his electric, Cosey wails across the intro, and squalls of feedback color the background. Miles takes the reins to the finish line with a beautiful, dramatic solo across the tune’s back half before Henderson drops the “Right Off” riff and the septet heads on a 24-minute closing journey.

The septet stretches the transition with a bit of superb guitar + bass interplay before the choogle takes hold and Miles returns for an impressively long solo (how is this man not exhausted?). As the cooldown begins around 11 minutes in, Miles switches over to organ to tease a bit of “So What” while the drum machine skitters across the sound field and Lucas solos beautifully. The tune turns skeletal as it begins a long, slow dissolve – led by Henderson, it weaves into “Yesternow” for a long stretch, rising and falling in intensity with Miles’ organ clusters as the guitarists and Fortune swap licks and Miles exits to a brief, wholesome bit of audience participation.

Get the tape (aud) / Lossless
First set
1. Funk (Prelude Pt. 1) [incomplete] (15:22)
2. Maiysha (33:07)

Second set
1. Turnaroundphrase (9:45)
2. Tune in 5 (incomplete) (2:22)
3. For Dave (11:35)
4. Right Off (24:48)

Note: Track indexes on the tape are approximate. For accuracy, tune lengths listed above are mirrored from Peter Losin’s session notes.

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)

*The 2.8 matrix recording is one of many generous contributions from Heat Warps pal, Griff Davies. Here are Griff’s original “liner notes” on his matrix mix:

The recordings, while not individually spectacular, seemed to me to be complimentary: a dry bassy soundboard with little Reggie Lucas in the mix, and an echoey, trebly audience with Lucas very prominent. Putting them together gives a more complete picture of the show, and is hopefully now quite listenable and enjoyable.

Getting them to stay in synch ended up being a labour of love. I also tried to boost some of the solo parts and tame that awful whistling sound that crops up on all versions of ‘For Dave” from this time. Unfortunately, the sax and Cosey’s guitars are very low in both recordings so there was only so much I could do

I used the audience recording from the “Three Shows” bootleg, and the soundboard set 1 from a download from years ago and set 2 from our friend Subterranean Rob’s recent rework. Bear in mind this second set soundboard is much better than the first so don’t judge this until you’ve heard set 2!