With the recent release of the four CD set from the Miles Davis group at the Fillmore East in June 1970 it seemed timely to have a look back at the massive musical transition Miles went through in a few short months during that year.
With the inclusion of tracks from a Fillmore West gig on April 9th on the new “Miles at the Fillmore” album, and the addition of a set from March at Fillmore East on the “It’s About That Time” album, plus the music recorded on April 10th at Fillmore West, and released as “Black Beauty”, it is now possible to follow the fascinating progression in the direction of Miles’ music between March and June of 1970.
Miles had spent a lot of time in Studio B at Columbia in New York City between August 1969 and February 1970 laying down the tracks that would make up the “Bitches Brew” album. The music laid down at those sessions begun to emerge in 1969 (see The Bootleg Series Vol 2 Live in Europe 1969) and the marked difference between the studio realisations (with many additional musicians) and the live versions in 1969 and early 1970 is notable.
The March gigs comprise the “The Lost Quintet” of Davis, Shorter, Corea, Holland and DeJohnette with the addition of Airto Moriera. There is not a great deal of difference between the bands performance in the summer of the previous year other than, of course, Moriera’s percussion, and, perhaps a slight shift towards a blues-rock sound away from the more avant garde elements demonstrated at, for example, Juan-Les- Pins in July 1969. It is interesting therefore that, around this time (February to June), Miles was again in the studio laying down the tracks for “Jack Johnson” and a handful of tracks that would appear on a range of albums, and using more rock oriented elements.
The key change between March and April was the departure of Wayne Shorter and the arrival Steve Grossman to take up the reeds role. Shorter’s more atonal avant-garde approach is replaced by Grossman’s almost Ornette-like fleet runs of tumbling notes which skirt Bop and explore new areas of playing. Also notable is the less harsh, and perhaps more lyrical tones coming from Corea’s electric piano.
And so to June, and four nights at the Fillmore East, with the addition of Keith Jarrett on second keyboard. Over the four nights you can feel a palpable change in the band’s approach from two months earlier. Keyboards are fed through all manner of effects pedals, Moriera’s percussion plays a more important role, Holland plays more electric than acoustic bass, and, the drums are busier – the fusion between jazz and rock is substantially complete by the end of the four nights. The additional tones provided by Jarrett’s organ add a completely new dimension to the music. Corea’s use of Ring Modulator to create echo and delay is a major move forward. Jazz moves into rock as the band play rock centred repetitive riffs as Miles improvises, and as Grossman plays long and sinuous runs on the soprano, the band shifts tempo and style and create something rather new.
And so there you have it – four months in the life of Miles Davis demonstrating a significant leap in musical direction which would reverberate through the worlds of jazz and rock for many years afterwards.
- Miles Davis Sextet – Directions
- Miles Davis Sextet – Miles Runs The Voodoo Down
- Miles Davis Sextet – Masquelero
- Miles Davis Sexet – Spanish Key/The Theme
- Miles Davis Sextet – Paraphernalia
- Miles Davis Sextet – Footprints
- Miles Davis Septet – The Mask
- Miles Davis Septet – Bitches Brew
- Miles Davis Septet – Sanctuary
- Miles Davis Septet – Willie Nelson
Tracks 1 and 2 taken from – Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970) – It’s About That Time (Columbia Legacy C2K 85191)
Tracks 3 and 4 taken from – Black Beauty (Columbia LegacyC2K 65138)
Tracks 5 to 10 taken from – Miles at The Fillmore Miles Davis 1970 : The Bootleg Series Vol 2 (Columbia Legacy 88765433812)
- Fillmore East – March 7th 1970 (First Set) – Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moreira
- as 1. but Second Set
- Fillmore West April 10th 1970 – Miles Davis , Steve Grossman, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moriera
- as 3
- Fillmore West – April 11th 1970 – line up as 3
- as 5
- Fillmore East – June 17th 1970 – Miles Davis, Steve Grossman, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, Jack De Johnette, Airto Moriera
- Fillmore East – June 18th 1970 – same line up as 5
- Fillmore East – June 19th 1970 – same line up as 5
- Fillmore East – June 20th 1970 – same line up as 5.