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


Miles Davis


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.09 | 19 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The late appearance of this historic document after more than three decades in bootleg limbo is proof that good things come to those who wait. Beyond that, the twin-CD offers a rare opportunity to hear the legendary Lost Quintet, so called because they never made a studio recording, hardly surprising during such an intense period of creative activity for the suddenly galvanized trumpeter.

We've seen lots of archival recordings of live electric Miles Davis over the years, but this one claims special significance. According to the CD booklet it marked the first time the erstwhile Jazz pioneer played in a rock arena, in this case opening a triple bill that included Steve Miller and Neil Young. The material here bears little relation to the likewise-titled "Live at the Fillmore East" double-disc, recorded three months later with a different line-up and heavily edited in post-production (to the dismay of many fans). Instead, this package includes a complete and unexpurgated performance, with one full set per disc, in total adding up to a somewhat paltry 89-minutes but preserving the integrity of a full evening's concert.

The music itself is the purest sort of Fusion, melding the freedom of Jazz to the F^ck You attitude of Rock, at times even approaching the scorched-earth intensity of "Agharta" or "Dark Magus" (minus only the electric guitars).There is, of course, some overlap in content between the two discs. But because the music was largely improvised, there are enough differences to make them each unique.

The concert opens with all guns blazing, and no shortage of ammo. Besides the angry scythe of Davis' trumpet, the primary weapon is Chick Corea's distorted electric piano, ring modulators and echoplex set to maximum overdrive. "Directions" fades in like rush hour in mid-town Manhattan, with Corea's Fender Rhodes sounding like an angry cab driver stabbing his horn to warn sleepwalking pedestrians off the pavement. The restless ostinato of Dave Holland's bass guitar might have been hypnotic if it wasn't so tense, and Airto's quacking percussion adds a typically weird flourish (his presence turns The Lost Quintet into a sextet, but never mind).

The music shares obvious DNA with the seminal "Bitches Brew" album, already recorded but not yet unleashed upon an unsuspecting public. But in concert the same material was even more raw and uncompromising. Compare the urgent, almost angry momentum of "Spanish Key" on Disc One to its more upbeat studio cousin. Later in the same set, "It's About That Time" borrows the soothing fusions of the "In a Silent Way" album and injects them with enough steroids to embarrass Jose Canseco, transforming a gentle melody into an almost unrecognizable fury of free-form noise. And when someone (Airto again, I'm guessing) blows a whistle during the reprise of "Directions" on Disc Two, he's like a frustrated cop trying to flag down a runaway lorry.

Ironically, it's "Bitches Brew" itself in the second set that fails to ignite. The abbreviated live version misses the production values and deft editing of Teo Macero's epic studio hybrid, plus the depth of the performance roster. Set two in general is a little more fatigued than the explosive opening performance, but the shift in musical energy pulls it at times in an interesting direction.

Miles Davis was 44-years old at the time of this gig: a geriatric by rock 'n' roll standards (Neil Young, by comparison, was twenty years his junior). And yet he proceeded to incinerate the stage and stun the hippies in the Fillmore East audience. A generation later, you can still smell the smoke.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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