This six-CD set features trumpeter Miles Davis with his early fusion band, marking the significant change that he was to bring about in jazz. Recorded from December 16-19, 1970, Davis' music retained the comfortable swing and fiery emotion that he had espoused in earlier years, but added a dynamic force that signaled progress in the entertainment industry.
Taking advantage of the technological developments available to him, he experimented with the sonic powers of electric piano, electric bass, and electric guitar, without yet moving into the realm of synthesizers. Thus, this session comes between two vastly different aspects of the trumpeter's signature sound: after his acoustic, straight-ahead bop legacy and before his heavily synthesized jazz/rock fling. The Cellar Door sessions provided the original source material for Live/Evil (Columbia, 1972), but they're presented in their entirety here.
Because these sessions were recorded live, you get the true flavor from each artist. Davis plays open and wah-wah trumpet with his usual zeal. Every note denotes a healthy respect for resonant tone quality. Keith Jarrett delivers melodic statements with clear articulation. They've avoided the kind of wallpaper electronics that surrounded studio sessions of the time.
Gary Bartz runs on high-octane emotion, giving the sessions passion fits that keep you on the edge of your seat for long stretches. Jack DeJohnette and Michael Henderson supply a pop/rock drum backbeat and thundering bass foundation that lets the band's front line groove all night long. With extended pieces and few breaks between numbers, the Davis band proves inexhaustible. The average time for each set comes to just under an hour.
There is some repetition on the programs, of course, as Davis revisits particular numbers on subsequent sets. A blues-drenched "Honky Tonk" is presented four times. However, each interpretation stands out as a significantly different entity. Keith Jarrett is called upon several times to deliver featured improvised pieces that serve as interludes and introduce more band adventure. He provides the sessions' quieter moments.
Most of the sessions run hot and heavy with reflections of pop/rock attitudes of the times. Davis wanted to give his audience a youthful appearance with the veteran spontaneity of jazz. He gave his band members plenty of freedom and gave his audience plenty to think about.
Containing recent testimony from Jarrett, McLaughlin, DeJohnette, Bartz, Henderson, and Moreira about this milestone session, The Cellar Door Sessions proves invaluable. Documenting one exciting end-of-the-week run in Washington, DC during times of turmoil and change, the boxed set provides the true Miles Davis fan with a benchmark discovery.
Personnel: Miles Davis: trumpet; Gary Bartz: soprano saxophone, alto saxophone; Keith Jarrett: Fender Rhodes electric piano and Fender electric organ; Michael Henderson: electric bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums; John McLaughlin: guitar; Airto Moreira: percussion.