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.Continue reading “5.7.1971 Fillmore West”
10.15 – 10.18.1970 Fillmore West
The Miles Davis septet returned to Bill Graham’s Fillmore West in October 1970 a dramatically different band than the one that shared a 4-night stand with the Grateful Dead earlier in the year. Gone was the effects-laden headiness, unpredictability, and unrelenting intensity that defined those April shows, replaced here by four identical sets built around dense, repetitive grooves. The resulting performances were likely a bit easier for the Fillmore audience to digest, and judging from their reaction on the tapes, the crowd certainly dug it.
In a typically eccentric Fillmore pairing, the septet shared the bill with Leon Russell, with support from Seatrain and Hammer. Not exactly the time traveler destination of a Miles Davis/Grateful Dead matchup, but a marked improvement from opening for Steve Miller. Curiously, there are no known photos from the October 15-18 shows, and tapes from only three of the four nights are in circulation – none of them complete. The fidelity of the October 15th tape suggests the shows were professionally taped, so a future Bootleg Series release may not be out of the question.Continue reading “10.15 – 10.18.1970 Fillmore West”
6.17 – 6.20.1970 Fillmore East
Following a late April swing through the Bay Area and five hyper-productive sessions at Columbia B (Miles’ last studio dates until March ’72), the Miles Davis Septet returned to the Fillmore East for a four-night stand opening for Laura Nyro – the band’s first performances with Keith Jarrett in tow. While Miles’ previous pairing at the Fillmore East opening for Neil Young and Crazy Horse was undoubtedly more explosive, this lineup was a bit more strategic. Miles had dropped in on Nyro’s session for the New York Tindaberry LP in June of ’69, so there was a clear mutual appreciation, plus Nyro’s audience gave Miles the broad exposure he sought from these Fillmore shows.Continue reading “6.17 – 6.20.1970 Fillmore East”
4.9 – 4.12.1970 Fillmore West
Having sized up Bill Graham’s Fillmore audience with two nights at Fillmore East the month prior, the Miles Davis sextet arrived at Fillmore West well-prepared for a four-night run opening for the Grateful Dead. They were also riding high on the release Bitches Brew, unleashed just days prior on March 30th, and by all accounts were fully intent on upstaging, outplaying, and straight-up out-psychedelicizing the Dead with nightly mind-melting sets.
Bassist Phil Lesh recalls his reaction to the April Fillmore West shows in his memoir, Searching for Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead
As I listened, leaning over the amps with my jaw hanging agape, trying to comprehend the forces that Miles was unleashing onstage, I was thinking, “What’s the use? How can we possibly play after this? We should just go home and try to digest this unbelievable shit.“
Like most of Miles’ Fillmore gigs, all four nights were recorded, with the evening of April 11th memorialized on the Columbia double LP, Black Beauty.Continue reading “4.9 – 4.12.1970 Fillmore West”
3.6 + 3.7.1970 Fillmore East
Shortly after the Bitches Brew sessions, Columbia head Clive Davis introduced Miles Davis to Bill Graham, rock impresario and owner of the Fillmore East and Fillmore West. These two nights at Fillmore East were the first of five residencies Miles’ sextet/septet performed at Graham’s East & West venues through 1971 for a total of 20 sets (at least by my count). The fact that he accepted Graham’s rate of $1500 instead of his typical $5000 per performance indicates just how dedicated Miles was to expanding his audience at the time.Continue reading “3.6 + 3.7.1970 Fillmore East”