11.26.1971 Lincoln Center

The final tape from 1971 captures what was arguably Miles’ highest profile gig of the year. Fresh from the septet’s well-received 5-week Newport Festival in Europe tour and the release of the Live/Evil LP just days prior, Miles returned to the states intent on capitalizing on his momentum, going so far as to have reportedly spent half of his Lincoln Center fee to pack the audience with young fans. And either at the insistence of Keith Jarrett, or to avoid some of the dicey moments that made the European shows less than predictable, Miles also arranged for Jack DeJohnette to replace Leon Chancler behind the kit for this Lincoln Center gig. DeJohnette would remain with the septet through a multi-night stand at the Gaslight the following month but unfortunately, no recordings exist.

Though Miles would perform a few scattered gigs in the spring of ’72 with Tiki Fulwood of Parliament/Funkadelic on drums, this tape offers the last recorded evidence of Keith Jarrett, Gary Bartz, and Don Alias as members of Miles’ live ensemble. It’s also the final live document before Miles began the spring and summer sessions that produced the On the Corner LP, along with other material that defined the next phase of his electric period.

A pivotal recording no matter how you slice it, this incomplete audience tape has circulated for years as a bootleg LP titled Hooray for Miles Davis, Vol. Three, with each side curiously labeled “Bwongo” and “Ananka” in lieu of individual track names. Miles scholar par excellence, Enrico Merlin, recently cleaned up and speed corrected his needle drop of the LP and is streaming it on his personal site along with some additional factoids and analysis.

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11.20.1971 Cascais

The five-week, 21-date 1971 Newport Festival in Europe tour was both exhaustive and exhausting, but as a platform for showcasing Miles’ headlong dive into abstract funk, it certainly got the job done. The tour’s all-star lineup of Duke Ellington and his orchestra, Ornette Coleman’s quartet, as well as a “Giants of Jazz” ensemble featuring Monk, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie only reinforced the stark contrast between Miles’ new direction and the more traditional jazz he’d largely abandoned.

This performance in Cascais is the end of the road for the septet’s European tour and the curtain call for drummer Leon Chancler, who was immediately, though temporarily replaced by Jack DeJohnette when the band returned to the states. Just 18 at the time Miles added him to his working group, Chancler was admittedly in over his head throughout the tour but would go on to great things; a stint with Mwandishi earned him the nickname “Ndugu” (Swahili for “earthly brother”), he contributed to Joe Henderson’s magnificent The Elements and Weather Report’s last great album Tale Spinnin, and hit paydirt on Michael Jackson’s Thriller and BAD LPs. The kid did alright.

“Playing with Miles was definitely something I regarded as something out of my reach … The overall awareness that he had of what everybody was doing and how they were doing it really affected me. He listened to everything and everybody. Those are the things that turned my life around. There was just so much going on there, and it was so intense and so much so soon. It was phenomenal.”

Ndugu as quoted from Miles Beyond by Paul Tingen
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11.16.1971 Turin

As the Miles Davis septet neared the end of the 5-week 1971 Newport Festival in Europe tour, the band began performing with the determination and ecstasy of a marathon runner in the final mile. Familiar grooves ran deep and heavy, a whiff of unpredictability guided the jams into strange turf, and the septet remained impressively tight despite its exhausting itinerary. This performance from the architecturally futuristic but acoustically meh Palazzo dello Sport in Turin is a prime example of the lineup at its most delirious.

The audience tape is a bit murky and features some splices/drop-ins toward the end of the set, but it includes nearly the complete show. The performance was also filmed and edited with a fairly heavy hand for a program called “Jazz on the Screen”. Though none of the tunes are shown in their entirety, its soundboard audio is a significant upgrade and the film captures some great moments, including Miles’ reaction to Keith Jarrett interrupting his solo during an incredibly funky “What I Say” intro (seen here).

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11.14.1971 Venice

The final leg of the 1971 Newport Festival in Europe tour brought the Miles Davis septet back to Italy for a trio of performances in and around the “upper-boot” region. This audience tape from the magnificent Teatro della Fenice (seen below) captures the first of three consecutive nights of shows.

The mismatch of a heavily amplified jazz-funk septet in an 18th-century opera house results in an audience tape that leaves a lot to be desired – percussion and horns dominate the mix, Keith Jarrett’s keyboards are buried but audible, and Michael Henderson’s bass is often merely a suggestion. Still, this is an incredible display no matter the barriers.

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11.13.1971 London

This audience tape is from one of two shows the Miles Davis septet performed at London’s Royal Festival Hall on the final leg of the 1971 Newport Festival in Europe tour. Though there’s no indication if this recording is from the matinee or late show, my money’s on it originating from the early performance given the band’s intensity level and freight train pacing at the start of the set.

Much like the document from Miles’ 1969 show at Hammersmith Odeon, the murky fidelity of the tape tends to mask some exceptional moments from this London performance, but they’re here if you’ve got ears. After ten straight run-throughs of the same setlist, Miles appears to tweak the song order on the fly as he cues the band into “What I Say” immediately following “Directions”. Nudugu sounds especially thrown off balance as he spirals into chaos during the segue while Miles, somewhat hilariously, solos atop the wreckage. Once the band kicks into the tune proper the pace is absolutely maniacal, reaching a climax with a Rhodes solo from Keith Jarrett that’s the aural equivalent of a tornado tearing across an open field.

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11.12.1971 Cologne

Following a monster of a gig in Oslo, the Miles Davis septet enjoyed a well-deserved two-night break before beginning its final stretch of the 1971 Newport Festival in Europe tour. Well, all except for Keith Jarrett, who spent the evening of November 10th recording his first solo LP, Facing You for Manfred Eicher’s fledgling ECM label.

This radio broadcast catches the band at the Sartory Festsaal in Cologne as the septet begins a five-night run of shows to close out the tour. And like the previous gig in Oslo, the band sounds amazingly enough as though they’re gaining steam as the tour reaches its final stage; Jarrett’s positively cruising, maybe even a little high on his own supply, Michael Henderson’s achieved a remarkable zen-like synthesis of groove and repetition, and Miles continues to explore new methods of sculpting his tone into shapes far beyond the trumpet itself. For all the physical ailments that nagged him in the latter half of 1971, the bandleader shows no intent on letting them impede his creative trajectory.

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11.9.1971 Oslo

The Miles Davis septet reached Oslo at the end of a five-night run of shows that were among the most thrilling of its 21-date 1971 Newport Festival in Europe tour. This performance at Chateau Neuf (an unassuming soundstage within the slightly drab headquarters for the Norwegian Students’ Society) was arguably the best of the five-night stretch. The concert was also expertly filmed and mixed for Norwegian television broadcast by NRK, providing us an exquisite document of one of the tour’s high water marks. If you’re looking for a single performance that reflects everything this lineup was capable of, this is it.

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11.8.1971 Copenhagen

Following a trio of excellent shows in Uppsala, Berlin, and Vienna, the Miles Davis septet rolled into the Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen for its fourth concert in as many days. Like many stops on the 1971 Newport Festival in Europe tour, it was a venue Miles knew well, having performed there in 1969 with his Lost Quintet, in 1967 with his second great quintet (as featured on The Bootleg Series Vol. 1), and alongside John Coltrane in 1960 (included on The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6). Miles would return a final time in 1973 with, of course, a radically different lineup and agenda.

The complete concert was recorded for Danish radio and television, and though only the final 18 minutes of footage are in circulation, it captures some fantastic interaction between band members. Mtume’s deft handiwork on the congas. Michael Henderson’s look of disbelief during Keith Jarrett’s “Funky Tonk” solo. Miles in the shadows off-stage, waiting for a groove to develop. Great stuff.

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11.7.1971 Uppsala

The current lineup of the Miles Davis septet hit its stride around the halfway point of the 1971 Newport Festival in Europe tour with a pair of remarkable shows in Vienna and Berlin. While not as expertly documented as those dates, the band’s superb November 7th set at the Universitets Aula in Uppsala, Sweden easily measures up.

Session details indicate the performance was broadcast on Swedish public radio, and the circulating tape sounds like a somewhat lo-fi audience/soundboard hybrid to my ears. Still, the balance is solid, the percussion is refreshingly subdued in the mix, and the band is positively on from start to finish. And just get a look at this concert hall.

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11.6.1971 Berlin

After an uneven first couple weeks on the 1971 Newport Festival in Europe tour, the Miles Davis septet experienced a breakthrough on its November 5th gig in Vienna. The band had loosened up, tamed its nerves, and found the confidence required to deliver a set of music with the capability to both defy classification and absolutely level an audience.

The cruising altitude reached in Vienna carried over into the following night’s performance at the Berlin Philharmonie, where the septet turned in one of its most exhilarating shows of the tour. Like the Lost Quintet’s superb performance at the same venue two years prior, the evening was documented in full color and sound for state broadcast.

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