Miles Davis’ only recorded stopover in Barcelona did not get off to a promising start. With the band’s gear held up in customs en route from Italy, the septet found the promoter’s replacement instruments unsuitable (Miles reportedly dubbed them “Spanish shit”) and canceled the first of two performances at the lavish Palau de la Musica.
Assuming the canceled gig was set for November 11th, this audience tape from the following evening captures the band reunited with their tools of destruction and well energized after an unexpected day off. And while the rough recording leaves much to be desired, the performance itself is astonishing – easily matching the form, effortless flow, and ferocity of the previous week’s Belgrade show and suggesting what appeared to be a one-off phenomenal gig was more a headlong dive into a new direction.
After a string of soundboards and broadcast recordings it’s refreshing to be blasted by an audience tape such as this one from Bologna’s cavernous Palazzo dello Sport – a document that drops you into the center of the mayhem to remind us of just how ungodly, overwhelmingly powerful this band was in the fall of ’73.
The tape fades in on Miles doing some heavy lifting to start the set, taking his time to bend the “Turnaroundphrase” theme into new shapes and relishing the simple joy of letting loose a wild, extended horn solo. Taking a cue from the zigzag chaos that made our previous tape from Belgrade such a thriller, the band drops into “Tune in 5” just long enough for Pete Cosey to get wild before Miles guides them back into “Turnaroundphrase” while layering its melody overtop. Both Cosey and Dave Leibman seem to be caught flat footed by Miles’ vigor as they try their damndest to keep pace.
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.
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.
With many stops on the 1973 Newport Jazz Festival in Europe so lavishly documented in broadcast fidelity and full-color film, shows like the septet’s November 2nd stop in Ludwigshafen are a relative anomaly: no photos have surfaced, no video circulates, and a cavernous audience tape is our only evidence. Thankfully, our taper is a good one, capturing both sets more or less in their entirety in front of a crowd that may have bitten off more than it could chew.
As if documented from the furthest reaches of the Friedrich-Ebert-Halle arena, the first set opens up with the band sounding a mile away before we zoom in for a better listen around a minute 30. Forget about focusing on individual instruments – it’s a fool’s errand with this mix. Instead, take in the band as a whole and zero in on the relentless chug of “Turnaroundphrase” as Miles gives the septet room to jam and stretch the groove at will. The long segue into “Tune in 5” is remarkable, with the band overlapping the tunes like a long cross fade before Miles drops the intensity mid solo and pushes the whole affair into a standalone jam. Dave Liebman solos beautifully atop a halting groove that opens up and gets heavy as Miles takes over before cueing “Untitled Original” on a dime. Miles’ stage direction is particularly great throughout the first set, using stop/starts with precision, and dropping segues that allow it all to flow with ease.
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.
Two days removed from a remarkable TV broadcast from Stockholm, Miles returned to the Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen for his final concert from the stage on which he’d performed many times since his 1960 tour with his first great quintet. While his 1969 gig with the Lost Quintet was documented in stunning full color and a superb radio broadcast captured his short-lived 1971 band in all its Drunken Master glory, neither performance really showcased either electric ensemble in full flight. As luck would have it, this rough and somewhat rare audience recording from October of ’73 tops them all.
Tivoli Concert Hall in 2018.
With limited historical info available on the tour’s logistics, it’s unknown why the band would perform two sets on certain stops and a single set on others, but the audience here in Copenhagen was treated to the best of both – a hulking, 90-minute slab of music with the full drama and focused intensity of a single, unbroken set. Remarkably, though the document’s awash in reverb, the mix is a great one, with every instrument identifiable and Reggie Lucas’ constant wah clear as a bell. A brief snipped of chatter from our taper sets the scene before “Turnaroundphrase” explodes out of the speakers and Miles begins an extraordinary (and extraordinarily long) solo. A few impeccable stop/starts prove the band is both technically and energetically down for the fight, while the intensity remains damn near overwhelming until a cooldown mid-“Tune in 5” brings some relief.
An assault of tape splices and digital glitches interrupts the simmering groove that stretches across the first half of “Ife”, chopping brilliant solos from Liebman (on flute), Miles and Pete Cosey into music concrète. (I’ll re-post improved audio if I’m fortunate enough to find it). Eventually smoothing out and settling into a luxurious pace, “Ife” sprawls without meandering before reaching a logical conclusion and pivoting into “Untitled Original 730424c” with the precision of a studio edit. In an shockingly stacked set, “Calypso Frelimo” holds all the gold here, with Miles filling the air with beautiful atmospherics on organ before playfully sparring with Liebman on flute. Chaos builds towards the tune’s back half, but never spirals out of control before stumbling into an astonishing groove around 19 minutes in that’s pure Can and unlike anything we’ve heard from a Miles electric lineup.
Given the majority of Miles’ concerts in Copenhagen were recorded by Danish state media, it’s hard to imagine a more pro document of this show isn’t languishing in the vault. If that’s the case, it’s time to open the gates – this is a peak electric period performance.
Get the tape 1. Band warming up/chatter (:43) 2. Turnaroundphrase (17:34) 3. Tune in 5 (12:51) 4. Ife (21:50) [glitchy intro clears up around 12:00] 5. Untitled Original 730424c (12:32) 6. Calypso Frelimo (23:21)
Lineup Miles Davis (trumpet, organ) Dave Liebman (soprano, tenor, flute) Pete Cosey (guitar, percussion) Reggie Lucas (guitar) Michael Henderson (electric bass) Al Foster (drums) Mtume (conga, percussion)
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.
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.
Following a summer tour of Japan and Europe and a couple of studio sessions that would later be collected on the Complete on the Corner Sessions box, the Miles Davis septet returned to Paul’s Mall in Boston a remarkably different band than the one that performed at the venue just over a year previous. Where Miles’ nine-piece band often teetered on the verge of chaos as it wrestled with the rough textures and polyrhythms of the yet-to-be-released On the Corner LP, the relatively spare 1973 ensemble offers a master class in cohesion, tension and release, and frequently jaw-dropping musicality.
With Miles’ predilection for rehearsing for tours with a multi-night club stand, the string of mid-October dates at Paul’s Mall from which this tape originates served as the band’s warmup for the European tour that began the following week. While session notes suggest the availability of a second tape from a separate night, this recording offers an exhilarating hour-long slice of the band’s October 17th performance as broadcast by WCBN FM.