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Miles Davis

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Miles Davis Dark Magus album cover
4.60 | 80 ratings | 4 reviews | 61% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music

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Live, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD 1 (50:12)
1. Moja (Part 1) (12:28)
2. Moja (Part 2) (12:40)
3. Wili (Part 1) (14:20)
4. Wili (Part 2) (10:44)

CD 2 (50:46)
1. Tatu (Part 1) (18:47)
2. Tatu (Part 2) ("Calypso Frelimo") (6:29)
3. Nne (Part 1) ("Ife") (15:19)
4. Nne (Part 2) (10:11)

Total Time 100:58

Line-up / Musicians

- Miles Davis / trumpet, organ
- Dave Liebman / flute (2), soprano saxophone (1), tenor saxophone
- Azar Lawrence / tenor saxophone
- Reggie Lucas / guitar
- Pete Cosey / guitar
- Dominique Gaumont / guitar
- Michael Henderson / electric bass
- Al Foster / drums
- Mtume / percussion

Releases information

Recorded live on March 30, 1974 at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY

Label: Columbia

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MILES DAVIS Dark Magus ratings distribution

(80 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(61%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(30%)
Good, but non-essential (5%)
Collectors/fans only (1%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

MILES DAVIS Dark Magus reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Money
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars For those of you still looking for that ever elusive progressive rock album by Miles Davis, you have found it here. This is not jazz or jazz fusion, funk-rock or funky jazz, this is 100% psychedelic avant-garde hard rock totally devoid of any filler or useless by-products. On this album Miles writes out his old jazz credentials with a razor blade onto a jagged piece of metal, crumples it up and stuffs it down the throat of every critic who tried to tell him who he is and what kind of music he should play. If the jazz establishment thought Bitches Brew was tough, nothing could prepare them for this sonic onslaught. The best way to describe this album is equal parts Iggy Pop, Sun Ra, John Zorn, Stockhausen, MC5, Hendrix, Velvet Underground with John Cale and live King Crimson improvs.

I have always thought that Miles was heavily influenced by the early 70s Detroit rock scene during this phase of his career. The Detroit scene was particularly rough, as well as creative and featured bands like Iggy Pop and the Stooges, The MC5 and Funkadelic, long before Funkadelic gave up their psychedelic hard-rock roots to become a funk/dance band. These bands mixed hard proto-punk beats with bluesy funk and avant-garde noise and were light years ahead of many other American rock bands as far as the future of rock was concerned.

Creative noisy hard rock is hardly the only influence on here. Dark Magus is similar to other 70s recordings by Miles in that he often breaks the beat down into free sections that are sometimes loud and busy, and other times quiet and ominous. These sections always show the usual Stockhausen and Sun Ra influences, but the difference on this record is that Miles has a bigger band and the sound collages are more dense and interesting. Some of my favorite moments happen when Mtume holds a cheap 70s drum machine up to the microphone and creates humanly impossible dense layers of rhythms while the other band members add electronic sounds and incidental percussion. There are some saxophone led hard funk-rock jams occaisonally, but these sections sound more like Crimson's Earthbound album or Band of Gypsys than 70s party music.

The star of this show is the incendiary avant-psychedelic guitar shaman Pete Cosey. Robert Fripp has referred to Cosey's guitar playing as 'wall paper shredding' and probably Fripp, and/or McLaughlin are the only guitarists I can think of that could possibly match this man's sonic outbursts. This isn't my personal favorite Miles album, but this is probably his best when it comes to creative avant-prog rock.

Review by Neu!mann
5 stars Along with "Agharta" and "Pangaea" (both recorded in Japan the following year), this is one of three separate but indispensable two-disc sets of live Miles Davis, released at the height of his avant-rock electronic period in the middle 1970s. All three share an uncompromising commitment to the primal nature of pure rhythm, and together form a monolithic trilogy of loud, hypnotic Funk-Rock fusion, with some of the most ground-breaking (and ground-shaking) music ever played in front of what must have then been an unsuspecting but very lucky audience, in this case at Carnegie Hall on March 30, 1974.

Of the three albums, "Dark Magus" is the more vitally alive, and the most powerful by several ergs of unrestrained energy. It was later named one of the 50 heaviest albums of all time, according to a Q-Magazine poll in July of 2001 (KING CRIMSON's "Red" made the same list, which shows exactly how far Davis had progressed from his acoustic cool jazz roots).

How heavy is it? Consider the line-up onstage that evening: three horn players, led by arguably the most influential musician of the 20th century; a three-piece rhythm section, often loud enough to clear your sinuses and tight enough to... (insert metaphor of choice here); and finally three (count 'em!) electric guitarists, including the formidable Pete Cosey, whose ferocity of technique would have likely made even Hendrix sit up and blink.

That's a total of nine players, performing 101-minutes of unscripted, unrehearsed, balls-to-the-walls music, most of it without even a hint of conventional melody or harmony to sustain it. The mayhem they create is truly awesome to hear: the musical equivalent of a marauding stampede of wild jungle beasts. Listen to the demonic energy of "Moja (Part One)" for proof: these guys left no prisoners in their wake.

But it's on "Wili" and "Tatu" when the strutting Funk-Rock beast finally breaks out of its cage (the track titles are merely Swahili translations of the numbers one through four: Davis never cared much for pinning names on his music). Monster rhythms (courtesy of bassist Michael Henderson and drummer Al Foster), reverb-heavy guitars, and yearning horns all collide in a unique (and very loud) form of musical osmosis, with the angry, distorted whine of Davis' trumpet setting the pace, often sounding not unlike yet another over-amped electric guitar.

Raw stuff indeed, from beginning to end. A more refined (but no less intense) variation of the same formula would surface the next year on "Agharta" and "Pangaea", just before Davis disappeared off the public map for half a decade. But it was around the time of this Carnegie Hall gig when the erstwhile jazz innovator turned his back irrevocably on the past, and really flexed his rock 'n' roll muscles.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Jazz purists really hated Miles Davis at this point and by listening to this live album you can kind of see why: there is almost nothing here that could be considered "jazz." Instead, this is rocking, with an almost punk intensity at times. It is also very funky with lots of wah-wah and percussion. The music is similar to both On The Corner and Pangaea/Agartha. In fact this has almost the exact same line-up as Pangaea/Agartha. There are two saxophonists and three (!) guitarists who sometimes get in each others way, but the sloppy feel just makes this music even better and spontaneous.

Recorded at a concert in Carnegie Hall in 1974, I don't hear any of the splicing and editing that appears on most of Miles' 70s records, even the live ones. Supposedly, Miles hated the sound of his trumpet here, which is loud and clear and in your face. Miles himself plays some organ and one of the guitarists screws around with a synthesizer, but most of the time it sounds more like a drum machine. There are four titles, each diveded in two, named after the Swahili words for "one", "two", "three" and "four." Some of the tracks are side- long.

"Moja (Part One)" has drums leading the full band into a crazy wah-wah attack that sounds like a rabid dog from Mars is trying to chase you. Love Miles' hypnotic, repeated trumpet notes. Features some blistering guitar soloing after 8 minutes. Avant-jazzy psych funk-punk at it's best. "Moja (Part 2)" starts to chill out after the frenzy of Part One. Before long you get some skronking sax work. More blistering guitar soloing and some synth for the first time. Miles solos near the end as the percussion increases in intensity.

"Wili (Part One)" opens with a laid-back funk groove, similar to what Herbie Hancock was doing at the same time. Miles plays some wah-organ as the cowbell goes to town. More eerie wah-organ and blistering guitar soloing later. "Wili (Part Two)" is more laid-back funk grooving, but with great sax soloing. Gets more mellow as it goes along. "Tatu (Part One)" is the standout track to me. Spacey funk-rock at it's finest. Features more great effect- enhanced guitar playing. The bass playing stands out here. The music dies down a little and then gets more intense with a great repeated melody on organ. Gets even more intense with the guitar playing and constant cowbell.

"Tatu (Part Two)" begins with more organ. It mellows out and grooves for awhile. "Nne (Part One)" starts off very random sounding with drum machine type sounds. Probably the most spacey and avant-garde track on the album. The bass sounds great here. The music stops halfway and then some guitar soloing. Gets more random sounding again towards the end. "Nne (Part Two)" is, next to "Moja (Part One)," is the most manic and crazy track, although it starts out very subdued. Once the drums kick in you're in for a wild funky ride. Great sax playing here and great guitar sounds as well. Just before 6 minutes is a drum beat that I would be surprised if it has not been sampled yet. Gets more percussion oriented towards the end.

This is my favourite of Miles' live albums, similar to Pangaea/Agartha but more experimental and interesting. As I said earlier, there is very little "jazz" music here. This is some seriously gritty and raw psychedelic funk rock. I could see fans of Krautrock enjoying this. Had Miles not semi-retired in the mid-70s, I think he would have moved away from this sound anyway; this sounds great for something recorded in 1974, but it would sound out of place even for 1977. A solid live album. 4 stars.

Review by Mellotron Storm
5 stars This was recorded live in New York City at Carnegie Hall on March 30th 1974. Miles lived only some 20 blocks from the venue yet he was still over an hour late. Saxophonist Azar Lawrence just sort of showed up for this gig.The other sax player David Liebman relates in the liner notes that they didn't practice much in those days.They just showed up for the concert and played. It was all about improvs and Miles is the master of improvisation.You can certainly hear how important the rhythm section is as Miles like Herbie Hancock were very much into SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE. So the drummer, percussionist and bass player play prominant roles while the sax players, Miles and the three guitarists solo their asses off. David mentions that when Miles added the third guitarist the sound had reached a critical mass. He also mentions that when he joined the band the sheer volume of noise from the band he was now in was what surprised him the most.These guys were freaking loud ! I can only imagine what went through the minds of those present at Carnegie Hall that night. Love the picture of this nine piece band playing in the liner notes with Pete Cosey and Miles both sitting down playing their instruments.

So we get two discs with 4 tracks on each. I'm not sure why I like this so much. I honestly couldn't get into the "Agharta" album recorded live the following year in Japan but then this one sounds completely different to that one.This really sounds like a band simply jamming away with different ones taking the lead in soloing and I really like that style of music. In fact as I wrote notes while listening to this I used the word jam several times. I honestly could listen to this music for hours on end.The man was a genius.

"Dark Magus" is my favourite live album from Miles and that's saying something.

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