Steve Grossman - saxophone; Chick Corea - electric piano; Miles Davis - trumpet; Jack DeJohnette - drums; Dave Holland - bass; Keith Jarrett - organ; Airto Moreira - percussion
The summer of 1970 had been an active time for Miles Davis, who was enjoying the exposure and acclaim afforded to his groundbreaking Bitches Brew album. Now performing before significantly larger audiences in places like New York City's Central Park and Madison Square Garden, he was even playing at several high profile music festivals, including the legendary Isle Of Wight Festival in the same month as this performance. Miles' extraordinary band, containing many soon to be legendary musicians, were all deeply immersed in his experiments into electric instrumentation. This performance captures Miles embracing a rock dynamic in his music that was more electric, more funky, more rhythmic, and simply more "out there" than anything that had preceded it. Much of the material here derives from Miles' studio sessions during the groundbreaking Bitches Brew album sessions.
Previously unknown to exist, this August 2, 1970 recording of Miles Davis was recorded live before an audience of invited guests at a CBS Records convention in the Bahamas. This recording now stands as the final document of existing Mils Davis recordings to feature Steve Grossman on sax, who would be replaced by Gary Bartz a few days later. Given only 30 minutes in which to play, this performance is less expansive in an improvisational sense than most performances during this era, but no less adventurous. The group still packs plenty of energy into the time allotted, and if anything, Miles solos even more than usual. The performance is one continuous suite, which allows one to follow the flow and logic of the music over an extended period of time. This continual flow, devoid of announcements identifying the songs, often left critics and listeners confused, but focused listening reveals that distinct changes are taking place. Miles is thoroughly in control of the musical direction at all times, whether he is in the forefront instrumentally or not. Miles guides the music back to particular vamps or themes, continually bringing focus to the group improvisations. The swift and agile response of the musicians to Miles' cues and coded phrases is truly remarkable and is a primary reason for the relentless intensity of this music. Little of this music derives from Miles' jazz period, nor does it fall into the free jazz category that it is so often mistakenly associated with. This music is much funkier, often comprised of deep, one chord, cyclical grooves that have little in common with jazz.
The recording begins a few minutes into the performance, with Davis' standard opener of this era, "Directions." Played in a frantic manner, this cooks with the propulsive energy that this lineup is so admired for. Shortly before the five-minute mark, Davis signals the band to transition into "Bitches Brew." Here Miles allows plenty of experimentation, primarily entering when he feels the need to bring the music back to a theme or particular vamp. This clearly displays his control of the band which explores some deliciously spooky places here. This transitions into "The Mask," a brief jam in open harmony with a swinging bass line underneath. Not being one to embrace free jazz, this is an unusual piece to turn up in Miles' repertoire at this point in time. This clearly shows the direction Corea and Holland would immediately head for, when they left Miles band at the end of this same month. The set concludes with a far more focused take on another Bitches Brew track, "Spanish Key." Here Miles revisits some of the Spanish influences he first explored on "Sketches Of Spain" but in an entirely new context. This is a flowing, fluent boogie based around several different scales and Miles is again in control, cueing the band into each new musical section of the piece, all of them riveting.
Possibly because of the condensed stage time and the fact that he was performing before many of those responsible for promoting his records, Miles is wonderfully active and engaged on this set. While sometimes difficult, often challenging and unquestionably intense, this night's performance is another compelling glimpse at an era of Miles' music that continues to have bottomless depth. As he had done several times in the past, Miles was forging into uncharted territory and creating a shift that would influence countless musicians and change the course of modern music.
-Written by Alan Bershaw