Last Call Review: Miles Davis / Miles At The Fillmore / Columbia-Legacy

Aug 23, 2014

It is a thrilling experience to hear Miles Davis and his band achieve the impossible over and over again in this rollercoaster ride of four nights of performances from June, 1970. 

At last the full impact of one of the finest Miles Davis bands can be experienced by jazz fans. Miles At The Fillmore features four discs representing the entire set list of four nights at the Fillmore East in June 1970. Previously these recordings had been available in abbreviated form as a two LP set, heavily edited by Miles's producer Teo Macero. These edits, while creating a rich interpretive mix of each evening's proceedings that could fit the allotted time for an vinly lp side, did not allow the listener to fully experience the organic development and flow of the sets from night to night.

Now, the listener has access to the complete sets and they are explosive. The band is in the zone between the rich past of acoustic, standard jazz that Miles had been a trend setter in for decades before, and the blossoming of electric jazz. In this space, the legendary trumpeter leads his band in an exploration of  a kaleidoscope of musical moods.

And the band is one of the best Miles ever put together: Led by Miles Davis, trumpet, the band includes with Steve Grossman on tenor and soprano saxophone; Chick Corea, electric piano(left channel); Keith Jarrett, organ(right channel); Dave Holland, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums; and Airto Moreira,percussion, flute, vocals.

Four CDs include four nights of music that are all kicked off by "Directions”. The band charges out of the gate on the first night's performance with relentless energy and power.  How can a listener not be excited by the incredibly crisp and bold statements Miles makes on the trumpet? Equally so, the relentless, roaring, funky keyboard duo of Corea and Jarrett contribute much to the performances included. Grossman's sax enters at exactly the right moment. And let's not forget the intense rhythms created by DeJohnette and Moreira, not just driving the band forward but creating and dissolving rich tension that ads so much to the fire of the shows presented on these discs.

Friday night's set is worth the price of admission. In the seven tune set arc that begins with "Directions" and then goes into "The Mask", "It's About That Time", "I Fall In Love Too Easily", momentum develops which coalesces into the quiet beauty of "Sanctuary" where Miles plays with an almost tearful mood and sentimental feeling. One of the best performances of his entire career, it transitions into the thrilling climax of "Bitches Brew" and the set end at "The Theme". 

A booklet of liner notes and historic photographs from the concert is included. This booklet also included a black and white version of the photograph of Miles that appeared on a late 1980's pressing of the legendary Miles Davis recording Kind of Blue, curiously, the photo was taken in June 1970, not at the time when Miles recorded the Kind of Blue sessions in 1959.

There are three bonus tracks included on the box set. These are from an earlier performance at the Fillmore West in April, 1970: "Paraphernalia", "Footprints" and "Miles Runs The Voodoo Down".    

The new box set is a perfect companion to the Miles Davis Live in Europe 1969 box set released last year. Together both sets display Miles Davis and his band mates pushing the musical envelope even more than in the previous year, exploring a world of music which forty four years afterwards still sounds on the cutting edge.