1.22 + 1.23.1975 Tokyo

Fresh off a week’s worth of warm-up shows in California, the Miles Davis septet landed in Tokyo for a three-week tour of Japan – Miles’ final overseas performances until the 1980s. The band’s last visit to Japan in June of ’73 marked a turning point for what was then a fairly new ensemble of musicians, including the debut of setlist staples, as well as the first appearance of Miles on organ and Mtume on the primitive Yamaha EM-90 drum machine – essential components of the band’s sound that would be warped beyond recognition by the time the septet returned to the island in January of ’75.

Rather than coast on the momentum of their excellent warm-up gigs at Keystone Korner and the Troubadour, the septet seems hell-bent on rebirth upon arrival in Tokyo. With both nights captured largely in full, the tapes reveal a quartet of sprawling, lurching, often messy sets in which the band favors heady abstraction over funk, often pushing both the music and the audience’s endurance to their breaking point. As the February 1st date that produced Agharta and Pangea looms on the horizon, hearing the septet begin to fully integrate the more experimental, sinister elements that would define those LPs makes these Tokyo tapes a thrilling listening experience.

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11.15.1973 Paris

Miles Davis’ final Paris show before his 1975 retirement held much potential. The septet had inexplicably shifted into a new gear in Belgrade the week before that carried over into remarkable shows in Bologna and Barcelona, and performing in Paris never failed to elevate Miles’ game, as evidenced by a phenomenal show the previous July. Whether he soaked up too much goodwill pre-show or was simply distracted by the spectacle, there’s something awry in Miles’ playing and demeanor that spins the septet off its axis and careening toward chaos, confusion, and occasional beauty – often a fascinating combo of all three. It’s high drama at the Palais des Sports.

Despite radio and film crews on hand to document the affair, circulating audio and video of the performance remain incomplete – still, that didn’t prevent the film from being archived by the Library of Congress. The essential Milestones YouTube archive has combined all available film clips into a single video*, and while it has the feel of a closed-circuit feed, the audio is superior to the circulating tape. The film captures Miles at his most erratic – cueing a confused-looking septet with overexaggerated gestures and generally sowing chaos with frequent atonal blasts from the Yamaha organ. The performance seems almost rudderless as a result, with the band wrestling a phenomenal set of tunes that occasionally spark brilliance but never entirely transcend.

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11.7.1973 Belgrade

While a wealth of tapes document the Miles Davis septet’s tour of Europe in the fall of ’73, factual record of the band’s itinerary is full of holes. One known gap is the 4-day stretch between a phenomenal set in Vienna and this November 7th performance in Belgrade – a dream double bill alongside the Rahsaan Roland Kirk Quintet. Whatever Miles’ band was up to in the span of time between these dates remains a mystery, but its atypical approach to this set makes for one of the year’s most captivating tapes.

Grey-market travelers may be familiar with this set from the unofficial double CD-R Another Bitches Brew, where it’s paired with Miles’ 1971 performance from the same venue. It’s a relatively brief show and by all accounts the band’s only performance of the evening – another oddity given Miles’ trend toward 60- to 90-minute headlining slots.

In a set loaded with relaxed tempos, melodies and themes that dissolve mid-statement, soloists who play out of turn or simply lay out entirely, and an effortlessly fluid five-song sequence consisting of just three tunes, the band tosses its playbook out the window here in Belgrade. Like the James Brown-indebted 1969 Newport set that foreshadowed the Bitches Brew vibe, or the mysterious late 1970 show that grooves harder than rhyme or reason, this tape from Belgrade is an example of one of the inexplicable left turns that are either an anomaly or a glimpse of the future. Either way, they’re a glorious listening experience.

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11.3.1973 Vienna

Whether in tribute to the Vienesse Joe Zawinul or simply the musical pedigree of the Austrian capital, Miles’ electric-period performances in Vienna were never less than remarkable. Though his set with the Lost Quintet offered a captivating peek at the psychedelia he’d explore in early 1970, and his 1971 show was a 100+ minute heavy funk thriller, this 1973 performance at the Vienna Stadthalle tops them all.

Expertly filmed for broadcast by Austrian state television, this document is an essential look at Miles’ 1973 band in all its glory – telepathic in its precision, fearlessly adventurous, and heady beyond belief.

As the band and crew prep the stage for Miles’ arrival, a generously long intro allows us to absorb some fascinating minutiae – a tangle of cables, Pete Cosey’s table of percussion odds and ends, Reggie Lucas’ rarely-seen pedal stash. Tools expertly honed for maximum impact on an audience that looks hilariously ill-prepared for what lies ahead.

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11.1.1973 Berlin

The site of stunning electric gigs in 1969 and 1971, Miles returned to the Berlin Philharmonie for a pair of shows on the first of November, 1973. Recorded for radio and television by West Berlin public broadcaster, Sender Freies Berlin, the evening’s first show was released in full on the 2015 set, Miles Davis at Newport 1955–1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 and captured in an expansive photo set by Jan Persson (excerpts below). Video of the set surfaces occasionally and I’ve included the currently available clips further down. It’s unknown if the later 10pm set was recorded, but there’s no tape in circulation.

Having built momentum across the first week of its Euro tour with standout shows in Stockholm and Copenhagen, the Miles Davis septet unleashes hell on what was surely an unsuspecting crowd of Berliners. Following an introduction by London club owner, Ronnie Scott, the band explodes into “Turnaroundphrase” with literal tape-saturating intensity as Miles stabs through the tapestry with remarkable ferocity, folded over and nearly disappearing into a comically long scarf as he channels spirits unknown through the wah pedal. Don’t bother adjusting your receiver, the entirety of this official tape remains firmly in the red thanks to either the band’s overwhelming stage volume or a little too much gain on the soundboard – any route, Sony’s choice to release such a blown-out tape is definitely a bold move.

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10.27.1973 Stockholm

Much like his performances Paris and Berlin, Miles’ concerts in Stockholm were frequently documented by state-run media. While many of those European shows have been released in various iterations of the Bootleg Series, this exceptionally filmed set from Sweden’s capital city remains officially unofficial. Its grey market status aside, the film is a revelation – providing our clearest glimpse yet of the 1973 band in full flight, the often endearing interaction between the musicians, and Miles’ physical gestures and subtle cues that directed the whole affair.

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10.24.1973 Malmö

Just as they had in 1969 and 1971, the Miles Davis live ensemble spent the fall of 1973 on an extensive “Newport Jazz Festival in Europe” all-star tour presented by impresario George Wein. Unlike that 1971 tour in which he set out on the five-week trip with an under-rehearsed teenage Ndugu Chancler behind the kit and a fresh pair of auxiliary percussionists in tow, Miles’ 1973 septet was a finely tuned machine by the time it reached Malmö for the touring festival’s opening night.

By all accounts, the band performed a pair of concerts on this date in Malmö, the second of which was broadcast by Swedish national radio and presented here in somewhat dodgy fidelity. A recording of the first concert is rumored to exist though is not currently in circulation.

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7.11.1973 Paris

From the site of his 1949 love affair with Juliette Gréco to his legendary soundtrack session for Louis Malle’s “Elevator to the Gallows”, a fractious date with Coltrane in the Spring of ’61 and into a killer string of electric dates, Paris provided Miles with a well of inspiration rivaled only by New York City. Despite a mountain of technical challenges that plagued him throughout, this July performance at the Olympia is an absolute monster, all thanks to a working group that’s in peak form from end to end.

The show’s also a rare one in that it features no keyboard – though we can hear the Yamaha organ briefly sputter to life toward the end of the set, the instrument seems to fall victim to the same ghosts that sideline Mtume’s beatbox and often send Miles’ trumpet spiraling into an ocean of feedback. A battle of man vs. machine that makes for a thriller of a tape.

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6.19 + 6.20.1973 Tokyo

Miles and his newly streamlined septet began a brief tour of Japan in mid June – his first dates in the country since 1964. While the dismissal of sitarist Khalil Balakrishna and percussionist Badal Roy was likely a result of Miles’ desire for a more nimble ensemble, Lonnie Liston Smith’s departure to begin a solo career left the bandleader without a regular keyboardist for the first time. Having competently manned the organ on 1972 studio sessions that produced “Rated X” and “Billy Preston“, Miles simply took over keyboard duties himself beginning here in Japan – contributing sparingly at first but going all-in by year’s end.

This well-documented pair of dates from Tokyo’s Kōsei Nenkin Kaikan concert hall proves the seven-piece ensemble hit the ground running – performing with the confidence of a lineup that knew one another’s strengths and gave everyone room to flex. As Paul Tingen writes in Miles Beyond:

“Bootlegs from this tour show the music at a higher level than before, more focused, elastic, and dynamic. With the ensemble pared down from ten to seven musicians the clutter had gone, revealing the revolutionary essence of the “funk with an experimental edge” in all its clarity.”

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5.1.1973 Santa Monica

Following a brief east-coast run that included stunning gigs in Greensboro and Washington D.C., the Miles Davis 10-piece returned to California for a stop at the UC Berkeley Jazz Fest and a pair of gigs in greater Los Angeles, the first of which was this performance at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium filmed for ABC’s In Concert television series.

It’s unclear if the band performed a full-length set but the 12-minute edit broadcast on May 23, 1973 is likely the source of this audiotape. And though the video hasn’t been seen in decades, a few choice photos from the date offer a rare glimpse of Miles performing while seated with his foot in a cast – a remnant of his car crash the previous fall.

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