11.5.1971 Vienna

The Miles Davis septet’s November 5th performance at the Wiener Konzerthaus marked the midpoint of the band’s 21-date 1971 Newport Festival in Europe tour. As evidenced by a pair of wildly different sets in Switzerland, and a marathon gig in Paris that teetered at the edge of collapse for nearly two hours, Miles’ young working band was the picture of unpredictability throughout the tour.

For all its wild abandon, this was also a lineup that seemed hell bent on absorbing all it could from Miles, either through example or via the bandleader’s typically cryptic instruction. Often Miles’ guidance was so specific that you can almost pinpoint the gig in which it was put into practice, such as this recollection from drummer, Leon “Ndugu” Chancler that was likely bequeathed to him before this Vienna performance.

He (Miles) came to me one night after the concert and said, ‘You know those little phrases you play, don’t finish them.’ That was it. That gave me a whole other approach to fill-ins and polyrhythms.

From Miles Beyond by Paul Tingen
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11.3.1971 Belgrade

The Miles Davis septet’s November 3rd performance in Belgrade has been one of the longest circulating 1971 tapes due to its well-balanced mix and superb sound quality. Among the most common is a mid-90s CDR titled Another Bitches Brew that pairs an abridged set with Miles’ 1973 performance at the same venue, lazily grouping each gig into a single unbroken track. Avoid it. The tape offered here captures the complete performance, including the full “Yesternow” and “Funky Tonk” that are absent from most recordings.

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10.29.1971 Rotterdam

The November 1969 performance by Miles Davis’ “lost quintet” at the ultra-modern De Doelen concert hall was arguably the pinnacle of the group’s European tour. Ebullient, tight, and brimming with virtuosity, it was also the final tape of the Shorter, Corea, Holland, and DeJohnette era. The Miles Davis working group that returned to the venue as part of 1971 Newport Festival in Europe tour was an altogether different lineup, and with just nine shows under its belt, was positively buzzing with creative tension by the time it reached Rotterdam.

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10.27.1971 Paris

The Miles Davis septet returned to the Théâtre Nationale Populaire in Paris for a two-set headlining performance just a few days after its initial appearance as part of the Newport Jazz Festival in Europe package tour. While the first Paris gig was a sprawling, unruly behemoth of a set (at 114 minutes it was the longest recorded show of Miles’ career), the performances on the 27th each clocked in at 90 minutes and boasted identical setlists – a rare display of uniformity from Miles though one he clearly enjoyed, as the band performed the same setlist for the next eight straight nights.

Like the previous Paris show, both sets on the 27th were reportedly filmed for television, which is likely the source of this somewhat lo-fi audio document. Unfortunately, the accompanying film footage has remained in the archives of Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française since its initial broadcast.

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10.26.1971 Brussels

Ten days into the Newport Jazz Festival in Europe tour, the Miles Davis septet hit its stride at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels on October 26. Originally recorded by Belgian Radio and Television, the tape captures the complete performance albeit in slightly muddier fidelity than you’d expect from a state-sponsored broadcast. Still, the 80-minute tape and this lone photo of Miles and Don Alias from the evening’s show (below) are evidence enough; this is a phenomenal performance for a band with just six dates under its belt.

As with the preceding shows on this tour, the set’s success hinges on the drumming of 19-year old Ndugu Chancler, who after a stunning display in Switzerland and a shaky night in Paris, turns in his most solid performance thus far. He’s relaxed, patient, and surprisingly attuned to Miles’ coded phrases that signal the start of a new tune. The result is a tighter and somewhat shorter set than usual, but one that’s brimming with incredible moments.

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10.23.1971 Paris

The Miles Davis septet’s October 23, 1971 performance at Théâtre Nationale Populaire in Paris was the first of two the band played at the venue during its European tour. This first stop was likely part of the Newport Jazz Festival in Europe tour itinerary, while a two-set show at the Théâtre Nationale Populaire four days later on October 27 was probably a one-off headlining gig.

Photos from 10.23.1971 by Philippe Charpentier

At 114 minutes, this complete October 23 audience tape is the longest recorded set of Miles’ electric period (narrowly edging out this late 1970 tape of mystery origin by 5 minutes). It’s also the first of the band’s 1971 European tour performances to be filmed for television, 30 minutes of which were broadcast as Jazz Session: Newport à Paris (below). Footage of the complete concert, as well as both sets on the 27th, remain in the archives of Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française.

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10.22.1971 Dietikon

While traversing the continent on the five-week Newport Jazz Festival in Europe package tour, the Miles Davis septet presumably made a few detours to perform one-off headlining shows. An October 18 performance in Frankfurt appears to have been one (no circulating tape from that show, unfortunately), and this October 22 gig at the Neue Stadthalle in Dietikon Switzerland was likely another.

Miles and tour manager Bobby Leiser en route to Dietikon, 10.22.71. Video footage of the band’s airport arrival.

Both of the evening’s sets were broadcast on Swiss radio with superb engineering by Klaus Koenig, whose work resulted in one of the best aural documents of the 21-date Euro tour – even more impressive considering the organizers hired a Steinway grand piano in preparation for an acoustic show and the band performed no soundcheck.

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10.21.1971 Milan

Jack DeJohnette was the last remaining member of the Lost Quintet to exit Miles’ orbit when he and percussionist Airto Moriera left the working group in the fall of 1971. Though DeJohnette would return to the band for a few shows toward the end of the year, Miles wasted no time in turning his drummer’s departure into another pivot point in his electric evolution – one that would see him make a near-complete abandonment of traditional jazz structures in favor of rhythmic maximalism, repetition and a continued voyage into uncharted turf.

Backfilling DeJohnette and Airto was Bitches Brew alum, percussionist Don Alias, as well as percussionist James Mtume Forman and 19-year-old drummer Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, both of whom Miles had seen backing Freddie Hubbard at a Los Angeles gig earlier in the spring. The effect of three percussionists was stunning: a dense carpet of rhythm and sound that was often impenetrable, heady, and frequently disorienting. The rhythmic assault complexity that defined Miles’ music through On the Corner, Dark Magus, Agharta, et al. began with this lineup.

Miles introduced his updated ensemble with an extensive 21-date all-star touring production dubbed the “Newport Jazz Festival in Europe” that included the Ornette Coleman Quintet, Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, and the Preservation Jazz Band, among many others. The very same tour on which his Lost Quintet would embark in 1969 shortly after the Bitches Brew sessions. As on that 1969 tour, the 1971 European shows were frequently broadcast on radio and television, leaving a trove of quality audio and video in their wake (17 total tapes!).

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5.7.1971 Fillmore West

Miles played his final set of career-redefining Fillmore shows May 6-9, 1971 at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West. Anticipating the emergence of stadium and arena gigs that would define the 1970s, Graham closed his Fillmore East on June 27, followed by the Fillmore West on July 4, 1971. Though it’s presumed both Columbia and the Fillmore recorded the sextet’s four shows opening for the Elvin Bishop Group and Mandrill, only this May 7 soundboard recording is in circulation. Often overshadowed by the many recordings the band made at Fillmores East and West the previous year, this tape easily holds its own as the most ultra-modern of the bunch.

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3.11 – 3.14.1971 – Lennie’s on the Turnpike

The Miles Davis sextet began 1971 much in the same way it closed out the previous year: with a steady, albeit scarcely documented run of live performances. And though 1971 saw the release of the Tribute to Jack Johnson LP in February and Live/Evil in November, Miles made no studio recordings for the first time since 1964, and there’s just one official live release documenting this pivotal year.

Despite the paltry “official” record, there remains plenty of evidence of the exceptional music Miles’ live band produced in 1971, beginning with these audience recordings from Lennie’s on the Turnpike in Peabody, Massachusets.

Situated on Route 1 north of Boston, the original Lennie’s on the Turnpike was a fairly remote but well-respected club that hosted live music from 1959 until it was gutted by a fire in May of 1971. Owner Lennie Sogoloff opened a new location shortly after but eventually closed up shop in September 1972. The club hosted the sextet for a pair of residencies in 1971: a seven-night run from January 11 to 17 (photos from those dates above), and a series of four shows on March 11-14, from which these recordings originate.

Lennie’s original location in 1972, post-fire
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