9.14 – 9.17.1972 Paul’s Mall

Legendary Boston venues, Jazz Workshop and Paul’s Mall shared an address at 733 Boylston St., with both clubs situated comfortably in the basement of the Cinema 733 theater. While Miles performed with some regularity at the Jazz Workshop from the mid-to-late sixties into the summer of 1971, it was likely the sheer volume of his nine-piece band that precipitated a move across the hallway to the more rock-centric Paul’s Mall beginning in September of ’72. He would return to Paul’s for a few more multi-night stands before his 1975 hiatus, leaving a trail of bootlegs in his wake.

Fresh off its sternum-rattling live debut at the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival, the nonet settled in for this seven-night subterranean run the week of September 11-17 (Tuesday through Sunday for those keeping track). Two tapes from these performances are in circulation: the first is a superb WCBN-FM radio broadcast from the evening of September 14, the other is a blown-out audience recording from an undated set later in the week. If you need just one tape from these shows, make it the radio broadcast – there are a few moments of brilliance in the audience tape, but it’s a pretty rough listen.

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9.10.1972 Ann Arbor

While dicey health kept Miles from the road throughout much of 1972, his studio activity during the spring and summer was a revelation, producing the still-futuristic On the Corner album, providing much of the meat for his Big Fun and Get Up with It LPs, and collected in part on the Complete On the Corner Sessions box.

Much like his 1970 sessions documented on the Complete Jack Johnson Sessions set, Miles’ 1972 studio ensemble featured a rotating cast of familiar faces (Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, Michael Henderson, Keith Jarrett, Mtume and others) and fresh blood (guitarist Reggie Lucas, Khalil Balakrishna on electric sitar, organist Cedric Lawson, drummer Al Foster, and tabla player Badal Roy). This time though, Miles took every member of his final 1972 studio session on the road – beginning the mercurial practice of smearing the line between his studio and live output.

Even with Henderson and Mtume the lone holdovers from his 1971 working group, the music Miles’ band produced when it returned to the road in September 1972 is astonishingly different from what poured from the stage just a year prior. The impetus has been dissected by the more qualified, and frankly, genre signposts serve no use – this music is the equivalent of magma erupting from a crack in the earth. Borne seemingly out of nowhere, it simply exists. The first fissure occurred on the final night of the 1972 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz festival.

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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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11.12.1971 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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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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