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Miles Davis - Miles Davis at Fillmore: Live at the Fillmore East CD (album) cover


Miles Davis


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.26 | 47 ratings

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2 stars The first (of many) live albums from the newly electrified Miles Davis showed the trumpeter in peak form, only two months after the release of 'Bitches Brew' in 1970. And the sextet behind him at the Fillmore East theatre was likewise inspired to some of their best performances. But the slapdash organization of the music itself, as reflected in the fractured collage of photos spread across the original gatefold cover, was a serious miscalculation.

Blame producer Teo Macero, who tried to duplicate with these live tapes the same cut-and-paste approach employed so effectively on the 'Brew' album, and elsewhere. But the ramshackle studio sessions required the artificial assembly. The live shows certainly did not, and his arbitrary editing destroys the continuity of each performance, carefully structured on stage into continuous instrumental medleys.

On the original twin LP each side of vinyl was devoted to a separate set of the four-night gig, and titled accordingly: 'Wednesday Miles'; 'Thursday Miles', and so forth. More than half of each evening's performance was left on the cutting room floor, which might not have mattered if the remaining tapes hadn't been so mercilessly (and haphazardly) butchered. Whole songs and bits of riffing were cut and rearranged, isolating 53-seconds of 'Bitches Brew' here, and 54-seconds of 'I Fall In Love Too Easily' there.

The splices are obvious, too: little audio hiccups interrupting the natural fluidity of the playing. Multiply every sloppy revision over four LP sides (now condensed into a pair of CDs), and you can maybe share an audiophile's frustration. It's a shame, too, because any one of the four complete shows, by itself, would have made an absolutely stunning album. The longer stretches of uninterrupted jamming ('It's About That Time' on Wednesday; 'Bitches Brew' on Friday) include some of the most thrilling work by Davis in any venue, on stage or in the studio. The savage twin-keyboard attack of Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea pushes the music into very experimental territory, and the percussive allsorts of Airto Moreira add an almost comic touch at times, reinforced by the shabby vaudeville conclusion to each set.

The full gigs are available (unofficially, of course), and deserve to be heard. Let's hope they eventually find their way toward a legitimate release, in the same way that 'The Cellar Door Sessions' (2005) belatedly salvaged the likewise heavily edited 'Live-Evil' tapes [ ** ]. Until then, however, don't settle for scraps: go for the whole meal.

[ ** ] Sometimes there's magic in wishful thinking. Mere weeks after writing the above, I learned that the complete and unabridged concerts are scheduled to be released in March of 2014, as a four-CD box titled "Miles at the Fillmore - Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3"...

Neu!mann | 2/5 |


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