Release Date: Mar 25, 2014
Record label: Columbia / Legacy
Genre(s): Jazz, Fusion, Jazz-Funk, Electric Jazz
In his excellent liner notes for Miles at the Fillmore - Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3, reissue producer Michael Cuscuna sets a context for Davis’s late ‘60s work, and Bitches Brew in particular, as part of the confusion of the ‘60s. It exists in a time, according to Cuscuna, where the Civil Rights Act had not ameliorated racism, where the Vietnam quagmire was still going on, where protesting students could be killed at Kent State.
Until now, the official recordings of Miles Davis' performances at the Fillmore East between June 17 and 20, 1970 have been limited to the double album Miles at the Fillmore. That set's producer Teo Macero, edited the recordings to create medleys of each night's music to four roughly 20-minute selections. This four-disc set contains all four concerts.
Miles Davis hated stasis. In the 30-year period between the time he first gained notice playing bebop with Charlie Parker to when he retired for five years in 1975, his music was usually in a state of transformation, with steady but noticeable changes occasionally interrupted by moments of what, in another context, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould called “punctuated equilibrium. ” The shifts were not linear and could never be understood in terms of “progression.
The latest in Columbia/Legacy's Miles Davis Bootlegs series has four discs representing all four nights played by the trumpeter's new electric band as the support for Laura Nyro at the Fillmore East in June 1970. That controversial and brilliant group included Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett (mingling electronic abstractions and wah-wah-guitar effects on keyboards), and the recurring setlist offers revealing glimpses into the real-time evolution of classics like Directions, Bitches Brew and It's About That Time. The group was also hovering between acoustic, standard-song jazz and raw avant-rock, so longtime Davis staples also get fresh treatments.
“Laura Nyro was a very quiet person offstage and I think I kind of frightened her,” wrote Miles Davis in Miles: The Autobiography, recalling his four-night stint supporting the Bronx-born singer-songwriter at promoter Bill Graham’s legendary Fillmore East venue in June 1970. Was it Miles the man or his music that spooked her? Sadly, we’ll never know, as Miles doesn’t elaborate, but Nyro’s fans might have been disconcerted, too, by the presence on the bill of the Prince Of Darkness and the prospect of being confronted by cutting-edge avant-garde sounds that couldn’t be easily identified as jazz, rock or pop. Leading a Bitches Brew-era group, Miles’ sets – which ranged from 40 minutes to an hour – comprised a mesmeric meld of febrile, exploratory funk and drifting, amorphous soundscapes.
Miles in 1970: expanded, and expanding all the time…The summer of 1970 was enlivened by the strong rumour that promised to be the supergroup to end all supergroups was about to make its debut: Eric Clapton and John McLaughlin on guitars, Jack Bruce on bass, Larry Young on organ, Tony Williams on drums and Miles Davis on trumpet. The potential fusion of Cream’s blues-rock with the jazz-rock explored by Davis’s groups over the previous couple of years promised to realise an ambition, shared by many, of linking the raw energy and audience appeal of one idiom to the intellectual richness and sophistication of the other. According to stories in Rolling Stone and the Melody Maker, the unveiling was due to take place at the Randall’s Island Festival in New York.
Even the prickly Miles Davis was forced to concede that the huge success of his early-70s albums was the result of his collaboration with producer Teo Macero. Here we have four CDs of music, from which, by cutting, splicing and generally reshaping the original performances, Macero created the vinyl double album Live at the Fillmore that the public bought in 1970. So is this the unadulterated truth at last or just raw material? It certainly gets close to chaos at times, but these live shows often did.
Miles Davis “Miles at the Fillmore: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3” (Legacy/Columbia) 5 Stars Wanna hear Miles gone wild? Listen to “Miles at the Fillmore.” The sensationally disruptive, four-record set presents a newly linear, and complete, rendering of the jazz icon’s historic attempt to give rock audiences a taste of their own (hallucinogenic) medicine. Back in June of 1970, two months after giving birth to the fusion movement with his classic double set “Bitches Brew,” Miles played four shows at the center of rock cool: the Fillmore East.
“Keith, you know why I don’t play ballads anymore?” Miles Davis asked Keith Jarrett early in the 1970s, during Jarrett’s tenure as Davis’s keyboard player. Jarrett said he didn’t know, so Davis answered his own question. “Because I love playing ballads so much.” The exchange illustrates as well as anything the relentless need for reinvention that fueled Davis’s career.