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Miles Davis - In Concert: Live at Philharmonic Hall CD (album) cover


Miles Davis


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.28 | 36 ratings

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5 stars Probably the most satisfying Miles Davis live album. It is the fourth live album that Miles released in 1970s, with three more live albums to be released subsequently. So "Miles Davis In Concert" sits right in the middle of Miles electric period. Which is interesting, as the music on this album, recorded on September 29 1972, is as close to equilibrium as Miles ever got.

Note: I am reviewing this album listening to double LP on the original vinyl pressing. The digitized version (on a CD) may present a somewhat different picture; I haven't had a chance to listen to the CD version yet.

Prior to this album, Miles has released "Black Beauty" (recorded at Fillmore West on April 10, 1970), "Live At Fillmore East" (recorded during a four days gig at Fillmore East in June 1970), and "Live/Evil" (recorded in December 1970 at the Cellar Door). After Miles released "Miles Davis In Concert", he continued touring but did not release any live material until his Carnegie Hall performance, recorded on March 30, 1974, was released in Japan only as a double LP titled "Dark Magus". After that Miles went on a tour Japan in January 1975, and on February 1, 1975, recorded two performances in Osaka. The matinee concert was released as a double LP titled "Agharta" and the evening concert was released as a double LP titled "Pangaea".

All of Miles live albums released in 1970s were double LPs. And all these live albums are highly regarded by both critics and the fans. So it gets extremely hard to rank those stellar performances. We are left to discuss personal preferences, as every fan seems to have their own favourite Miles alive album.

My favourite is this one ("Miles Davis In Concert"). I love "Dark Magus", but I feel that on "Miles Davis In Concert", Miles had achieved the perfect balance of a mix between the avant-garde and non-European music. With albums prior to this one, there was a lot of searching, lot of attempts to find the magic formula in the hopes that he will be able to bottle it. The results were ranging from spectacular to near misses. But on this night, Miles finally hit the stride and managed to conjure up that much sought after balance, the equilibrium he was searching for.

What makes this album so special, so different from the ones preceding it and the ones following it? It's mostly the achievement of musical stasis. Prior to this breakthrough, Miles had pursued his Directions in Music by following his formula 'time, no changes'. But on this album, not only did the band abandon creating tension-and-release through following harmonic progression (changes_, they had also abandoned creating tension-and-release through shifting the time signatures. Pretty much all the composition the band played that night sound quite static, with a very rudimentary groove that keeps going for what seems like forever. It is only after the band exhausts all ideas regarding how to play over such rudimentary groove (or vamp), that they switch to another, equally static vamp.

Another thing that makes this recording so unique, so interesting, is that throughout the entire concert, barely any musician ever solos. If an instrument enters the picture, it is mostly in order to support the vamp. S basically the entire band keeps sounding as if everyone is comping.

What this combination of static vamps and collective comping produces is a whole bunch of intricate, often ingenious textures. Sonic textures is what Miles seemed to have primarily been focused on during that period.

Miles has never been this much engaged on the stage as he seems to have been on that night. He plays almost all the time, but he is not soloing, his trumpet is guiding and supporting the band. And Miles sounds fantastic, he is obviously excited and is enjoying himself from the beginning to the very end of the concert. He did not leave the stage long before the performance was over, he was there all the time, gelling with his band, cherishing the gorgeous music they were making that night.

From the listener's point of view, this album is quite possibly the most satisfying, the most gratifying listening experience. Listening to these four brilliant sides, I become keenly aware of the power of repetition that Miles discovered on his musical journey. The overall effect is simply divine!

Yes, Miles went on to play more exciting concerts ("Dark Magus", "Agharta" and "Pangaea" amply illustrate that excitement), but his later records never managed to hit this elusive sweet spot of perfect balance, perfect equilibrium and the bliss of floating on the cushion of perfect stasis. His later albums were full of dramatic, heroic musical statements delivered by his outstanding soloists (Dave Liebman and Pete Cosey being among the most prominent ones). But the delicate cohesive balance between all band members on the stage has never been so charmingly captured on tape as on that night of September 29, 1972.

Nnetatu | 5/5 |


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