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Miles Davis - Black Beauty: Live at the Fillmore West CD (album) cover

BLACK BEAUTY: LIVE AT THE FILLMORE WEST

Miles Davis

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.27 | 18 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars On a timeline of live, electric Miles Davis this April 1970 performance coincides almost exactly with the release of his watershed album "Bitches Brew", the impact of which would finally demolish the already crumbling wall separating Jazz and Rock. The newly plugged-in trumpeter had only recently begun playing larger rock arenas, as heard in the belated 2001 CD "It's About That Time", recorded one month before this show. So it's hard to imagine how an unprepared audience of San Francisco hippies, there to see The Grateful Dead, would have reacted to the controlled fury of Davis' opening act: no longer Jazz, but hardly Rock, and weird even by the far-out standards of the early 1970s.

This particular set captures his touring band in an uneasy moment of transition. The departure of saxophone ace Wayne Shorter left a conspicuous hole on stage, not completely filled by his interim replacement, Steve Grossman. The newcomer favored a busier, less-restrained blowing style better suited to the louder electronic fusions of the era, but at this gig he wasn't yet fully integrated with the band. A lot of the performance slack had to be carried by Chick Corea, who throws himself into his keyboard solos with almost reckless abandon, the distorted sound of his Fender Rhodes piano often dragging the other players into uncharted freeform territory, usually when Miles himself was offstage.

The music can be a little uneven as a result. Ditto the unpolished production, which doesn't quite capture the raw authenticity of the moment. The recording sounds curiously flat, and the arbitrary shifting of Davis' trumpet from the right to left channel is an unnecessary distraction.

I'm not sure why this particular concert needed to be released, or why it took three years to do so. Perhaps the harder approach to the prototypical fusions of "Bitches Brew" made it a more attractive package to curious Rock fans in 1973. Of course to a student of Miles Davis every turn of his mercurial career is worthy of documentation, but this show sounds like a throwaway effort designed to cash in on the unexpected crossover appeal of a Jazz aristocrat embracing his darker impulses.

Consider it as one more piece to the enigmatic puzzle that was Miles Dewey Davis...hardly revealing by itself, but filling yet another gap in a much larger musical picture.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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