Thursday, June 3, 2010

Miles Davis - Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It's About That Time

Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It's About That TimeAlice Cooper and Iggy Pop are usually credited for helping to kill off the peace and love Woodstock hippy rainbow vibe in 1970. Listening to this double live muther of Miles Davis unleashing his electric band on a bunch of hippies at the Fillmore East waiting to see Steve Miller and Neil Young, you could say that Miles did his part, too.

Bill Graham did everyone a favor when he was running the Fillmores in NYC and San Francisco by putting together some inspired bills. King Crimson and The Chambers Brothers one night; The Mothers of Invention with Lenny Bruce another. Black Sabbath opened for The Faces. Albet King shared the stage with his biggest fan Jimi Hendrix, and so on. Charles Lloyd was the fist jazz artist to play the Fillmore, but it’s Miles that must have really flipped some lids.

Captured live on Saturday night March 7, 1970 (but not released until 2001) no one could have been prepared for what Miles was laying down. In A Silent Way came out in 1969 and ruffled many feathers in the jazz world but the moldy figs would get really pissed off when Bitches Brew was released in April 1970. It’s doubtful anyone in the audience this night knew what the hell they were hearing, including some members of Miles’ excellent band. Saxophonist Wayne Shorter would leave the band not long after this to make some more great acoustic records for Blue Note before eventually forming Weather Report. Chick Corea was forced by Miles to play electric piano and it’s obvious he’s not in love with the instrument as he pounds on it like crazy to get it to respond. Miles must have loved this. Bassist Dave Holland plays both acoustic and electric on these recordings and plays incredible back bone grooves among all the chaos. He, too, would leave Miles soon after and stick to an acoustic instrument. Powerhouse drummer Jack DeJohnnette plays incredibly and blends well with the unhinged percussion of Airto Moreira. Then there’s Miles himself. His dark, smoky tone is intact but he’s playing in a higher register more than in the past to compete with all the electricity. He has yet to hook up a wah-wah pedal to his horn that really made his old audience mad.

The norm back at the Fillmore was 2 shows a night and It’s About Time includes both sets in their entirety. Each disc is about 45 minutes and showcases mainly Bitches Brew material with a smaller band than on the record. “Directions” opens each set, but very different versions. If you were high and sitting on the floor waiting for Steve Miller to rock you, baby, this would wake your stoned ass up. (Check out the hilarious part of Miles’ autobiography to get his opinion on Steve Miller). “Spanish Key” gets a high energy treatment but would benefit from John McLaughlin’s guitar like on the album. Wayne Shorter’s “Masqualero” made its debut on Miles’ Sorcerer album in 1967 and this version is pretty different from the original.

During the 2nd set the band runs “Miles Runs The Voodoo Down,” “Bitches Brew” and “Spanish Key” one after another and the confused crowd doesn’t know when to applaud. Anytime the band settles into a steady groove Miles signals for the music to change, keeping everyone on their toes and fully engaged. “It’s About Time” wraps up the show before morphing into the funky groove he titled “Willie Nelson” and the stunned crowd cheers. It’s unclear if they liked the music or are just glad it’s over. (Apparently, Miles and Willie hung out a few times. I wonder what they did?)

Miles would produce much more great music in 1970, including the awesome Jack Johnson LP as wells as more tracks that would wind up on albums like Live Evil, Black Beauty and another live one from the Fillmore but with a totally different band and repertoire. No one was making music like this in 1970. Frank Zappa, Soft Machine and a few others were incorporating jazz into their rock improvisations, while Tony Williams was playing jazz with full on rock guitar and The Stooges were working on the classic Funhouse album that would emulate some of the high energy grooves and musical freakouts, but no one was near what was happening on planet Miles.


--Woody

 Buy here: Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It's About That Time

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