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Intensely intoxicating as much as it is wholly hypnotic, Miles Davis Live at the Fillmore becomes increasingly so through the course of its four compact discs. More than doubling the playing time of the original four-sided vinyl release, The Bootleg Series Vol. 3 posits an argument the band(s) of this era were among the finest ever led by the man with the horn.
If that sounds hyperbolic, it's difficult not to rhapsodize about this archive series in general and this edition in specific, The similarities in the setlists evolve into an asset as the only slight rotation of tunes provides a reference point to absorb the dynamics of the ensemble playing as it moves from furious frenetics ("Directions") to gossamer-like delicacy ("It's About That Time") over the course of each of the four discs here, each of which is devoted to one night of the four-night run at the late Bill Graham's Fillmore East in New York City. Quotes from "The Theme" appear each night, a carryover selection from previous ensembles that here sound like an almost sarcastic comment on how far the music has come since its first appearance.
Material from the famous venue's west coast counterpart fills out two of the cd's, importantly the first one and even more significantly as this content (definitely not filler as it might otherwise be known to bring the configuration to is maximum playing time) features material from the iconic quintet Davis led through the late Sixties including drummer Tony Williams, pianist /composer Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter. The latter's "Paraphernalia" here has a crisp clarity derived not just from keyboardist Chick Corea's electric piano (he is joined by Keith Jarrett on organ for the East coast shows), but from the impeccable audio quality of the original records, elevated to an even higher level through the remastering of the master tapes to which so much attention was given at the time of the dates.
In an accompanying booklet (alongside a double-sided poster!) as graphically well-designed as the cover, though perhaps not so striking visually, co- producer (with Richard Seidel) Michael Cuscuna's essay here places this work not just in the context of the turbulent times but of Miles Davis' career and in particular offers a timeline extending to an initial failed attempt to procure a live album from an earlier series of concerts. It's a measure of this music as an object of fascination that the technical aspects of the recording production are almost as fascinating as the operational aspects of the project and the musicianship itself. But it's a fact that Teo Macero's distillation of the extensive recoding's down to four sides of vinyl extended the groundbreaking approach he and Miles began on In A Silent Way and continued to an even greater extend for Bitches Brew, from which here comes the title tune and "Miles Chases the Voodoo Down." The two overseers of this title do justice to that process.
The economy of the latter in the second cull from Fillmore West on (most appropriately and logically) the third cd here thus offers stark contrast to the density of what precedes it and, at the same time, offers a chance for reflection before the concluding set. The dual keyboardists plus the addition of percussionist Airto Moreira to the lineup makes for a sound as intricate in itself as the studio recordings which preceded it; as such, Miles Davis at The Fillmore depicts his music in something of a time-elapsed progression where he and his working band, including a monstrous rhythm section of drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Dave Holland, parse out the multiplicity of ideas that came to fruition in the studio, reinventing them, and gloriously so, on the stage.
Track Listing: CD1 (Fillmore East, June 17, 1970): Introduction; Directions; The Mask;
It's About That Time Bitches Brew; The Theme; Paraphernalia (bonus track from
Fillmore West, April 11, 1970); Footprints (bonus track from Fillmore West, April 11,
1970).CD2 (Fillmore East, June 18, 1970): Directions; The Mask; It's About
That Time; Bitches Brew; The Theme; Spanish Key (encore); The Theme. CD3
(Fillmore East, June 19, 1970): Directions; The Mask; It's About That Time;
I Fall in Love Too Easily; Sanctuary; Bitches Brew; The Theme; Miles Runs the Voodoo
Down (bonus track from Fillmore West, April 11, 1970). CD4 (Fillmore East, June
20, 1970): Directions; The Mask; It's About That Time; I Fall in Love Too Easily;
Sanctuary; Bitches Brew; Willie Nelson; The Theme.
Personnel: Miles Davis: trumpet; Steve Grossman: tenor and soprano saxophones; Chick Corea:
electric piano; Keith Jarrett: organ and tambourine (CD1#1-6, CD2, CD3#1-7, CD4); Dave
Holland: bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums; Airto Moreira: percussion, flute (CD1#1-6, CD2,
CD3#1-7, CD4), vocal (CD1#1-6, CD2, CD3#1-7, CD4).
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.