Paraphernalia Volume 1: “The Mask” Megamix

The Miles Davis original, “The Mask” is unique in that it was likely conceived, recorded, and quickly added to the live set as an outlet for the working band’s freeform exploration. Recorded in a June 4, 1970 session, the tune was laid to tape in two parts, the first a completely unstructured improvisation (the closest Miles would ever get to “free jazz”), the second part a swirling wash of multiple keyboards, percussionists, guitar, sax and trumpet underpinned with a walking bassline and a sublime, slow groove from Jack DeJohnette.

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2.21.1970 Ann Arbor

1970 wasn’t just a pivotal year in the Miles Davis electric timeline – it was a universe away from what the quintet was up to just 4 months prior. Three main factors contributed to the drastic change in tone: Dave Holland switched over to electric bass, Chick Corea began running the Fender Rhodes signal through both an Oberheim ring modulator and Echoplex tape delay, and Brazilian percussionist extraordinaire Airto Moreira joined the live lineup. The effect was stunning: a deeper, harder, more complex groove, and a sonic palette that would blow the minds of the headiest psychedelic warrior.

As if those changes weren’t significant enough to mark a clear change in direction, Miles added John McLaughlin on guitar for this February date at the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival. Though the soundboard tape trims “Directions” from the start of the set and the mix is pretty out of whack (“Sanctuary”, “Bitches Brew” and “Masqualero” peak out severely, so watch your headphone volume), the performance is as incredible as you’d expect.

February 21, 1970
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