The last few years have been a harvest time for previously unreleased rock and jazz broadcasts from the 1970s. The latest carrot to be dangled is a single disc recording of Miles Davis on stage June 13th 1973 at Shinjuku Koseinenkin Kalkan, Tokyo. Formerly known in bootleg form, this concert finds Davis’s at the mid-way point of his most prolific period. Since walking through a looking glass with the release of Bitches Brew in 1970, he was to release ten double albums of increasing abstraction and maintain a brutal touring regime. A workload that was to leave him by the end of 1975 more condemned than crowned by critics and fans alike resulting in a burnt out muse and a period of dissipated retirement.
With hindsight Miles’s electric output is probably his most influential phase with resonance’s far beyond the jazz bazaar. Born into a pre hip-hop, pre-ambient & pre alt rock scene most of his audience lacked the reference points to engage with what he was putting out. Classic live recordings like Agharta & Pangea were released only in Japan for the happy hardcore. His muse has since fed the cutting edge from the post punk provocations of Public Image Ltd to the twitchy electronica of Flying Lotus to name drop but two artists.
On that night his touring band was Dave Liebman, saxophone, Pete Cosey & Reggie Lucas on guitars, Michael Henderson on bass, Al Foster and Mtume, perscussion. The set list comprises of tune each off Jack Johnson & Big Fun plus four widescreen jams that would turn up retooled on other releases. From the opening groove of Turnaroundphase to the closing drum coda of Zimbabwe the band impresses with its sinuous meld of noir funk and spacious foreboding. The album’s centrepiece is a 25 minute reading of Right Off. Foster drives a galloping pattern, then Cosey and Lucas join the fray with slow burning twin guitar tapestry of psychedelic fuzz. Davis’s trumpet lends circumflex accents to the storm of chords & rhythm before the mood changes to passages of raga like calm. Liebmans’ expressive sax is a fine foil to Davis’s elliptical punctuation. However the key to all these performances are the group itself not the soloists. The collective groove is what it is about and what grips the listener. Agharta Prelude is in a different short version as is Zimbabwe, which is a very percussive heavy take..
The sound recording itself is very good, if not quite up the CBS releases. I was left wanting more, as it’s just a single disc and all the tunes are in the long form. This water is probably a bit deep for a beginner, but the Miles Davis late fusion fan will want to jump in.