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 Konsertsal 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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10.29.1971 Rotterdam

The November 1969 performance by Miles Davis’ “lost quintet” at the ultra-modern De Doelen concert hall was arguably the pinnacle of the group’s European tour. Ebullient, tight, and brimming with virtuosity, it was also the final tape of the Shorter, Corea, Holland, and DeJohnette era. The Miles Davis working group that returned to the venue as part of 1971 Newport Festival in Europe tour was an altogether different lineup, and with just nine shows under its belt, was positively buzzing with creative tension by the time it reached Rotterdam.

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10.27.1971 Paris

The Miles Davis septet returned to the Théâtre Nationale Populaire in Paris for a two-set headlining performance just a few days after its initial appearance as part of the Newport Jazz Festival in Europe package tour. While the first Paris gig was a sprawling, unruly behemoth of a set (at 114 minutes it was the longest recorded show of Miles’ career), the performances on the 27th each clocked in at 90 minutes and boasted identical setlists – a rare display of uniformity from Miles though one he clearly enjoyed, as the band performed the same setlist for the next eight straight nights.

Like the previous Paris show, both sets on the 27th were reportedly filmed for television, which is likely the source of this somewhat lo-fi audio document. Unfortunately, the accompanying film footage has remained in the archives of Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française since its initial broadcast.

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10.26.1971 Brussels

Ten days into the Newport Jazz Festival in Europe tour, the Miles Davis septet hit its stride at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels on October 26. Originally recorded by Belgian Radio and Television, the tape captures the complete performance albeit in slightly muddier fidelity than you’d expect from a state-sponsored broadcast. Still, the 80-minute tape and this lone photo of Miles and Don Alias from the evening’s show (below) are evidence enough; this is a phenomenal performance for a band with just six dates under its belt.

As with the preceding shows on this tour, the set’s success hinges on the drumming of 19-year old Ndugu Chancler, who after a stunning display in Switzerland and a shaky night in Paris, turns in his most solid performance thus far. He’s relaxed, patient, and surprisingly attuned to Miles’ coded phrases that signal the start of a new tune. The result is a tighter and somewhat shorter set than usual, but one that’s brimming with incredible moments.

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10.23.1971 Paris

The Miles Davis septet’s October 23, 1971 performance at Théâtre Nationale Populaire in Paris was the first of two the band played at the venue during its European tour. This first stop was likely part of the Newport Jazz Festival in Europe tour itinerary, while a two-set show at the Théâtre Nationale Populaire four days later on October 27 was probably a one-off headlining gig.

Photos from 10.23.1971 by Philippe Charpentier

At 114 minutes, this complete October 23 audience tape is the longest recorded set of Miles’ electric period (narrowly edging out this late 1970 tape of mystery origin by 5 minutes). It’s also the first of the band’s 1971 European tour performances to be filmed for television, 30 minutes of which were broadcast as Jazz Session: Newport à Paris (below). Footage of the complete concert, as well as both sets on the 27th, remain in the archives of Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française.

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