MILES AT THE FILMORE-MILES DAVIS 1970: THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 3.
MILES AT THE FILMORE-MILES DAVIS 1970: THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 3.
Throughout his career, Miles Davis was a musical innovator and chameleon. He constantly sought to reinvent himself and his music. This had been the case throughout his career. Miles wasn’t the type of musician who could stand still. No. So, in 1968, Miles changed direction musically and his electric period began. Miles’ electric period is celebrated on Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3, a four disc box set recently released by Sony Music.
Miles’ electric period began in 1968. He was influenced by psychedelia, rock, soul and funk. These musical genres were hugely popular and influential. Especially artists like Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone and James Brown. Many of these artists Mile met through his latest girlfriend, Betty Mabry.
Betty Mabry was a twenty-three year old funk singer, songwriter and model. Having dated Miles Davis, Betty married Miles in September 1968 and became the second Mrs Davis. Their relationship didn’t last long. While Miles was forty-two, Betty was only twenty-three. They moved in different circles.
When Betty arrived in New York, from Pittsburgh, she enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology. In the early sixties, Betty became part of the Greenwich Village folk scene. As the sixties unfolded, Betty’s musical taste changed. She met soul singer Lou Courtney, who produced Betty’s debut single, The Cellar. Before long, Betty’s reputation as a singer and songwriter grew. She became friends with Jimi Hendrix, Lou Courtney and Sly Stone. It was Betty who introduced Miles to these artists. The would inspired Miles to plug-in and go electric.
The period between1968 and 1975 became known as Miles’ “electric period.” It saw Miles at his most creative and inventive. He managed to combine jazz, funk, psychedelia and rock. This wasn’t easy.
Despite Miles Davis’ band featuring some of the top jazz musicians, the transition to electric instruments wasn’t straightforward. It took time and planning. This became apparent at the start of Miles’ “electric period.” By the time Miles recorded his first album of his Miles’ “electric period,” In A Silent Way, it was a case of problem solved.
In A Silent Way.
Recording of In A Silent Way took place at CBS 30th Street Studio, Studio B. Miles and his band only took one day to record In A Silent Way. That was 28th February 1969. That day, an all-star band would record six tracks Shhh, Peaceful, Shhh, In a Silent Way, “It’s About That Time and In a Silent Way.
Miles played trumpet and Wayne Shorter soprano saxophone. The rhythm section featured drummer Tony Williams, double bassist Dave Holland and John McLaughlin on electric guitar. Joe Zawinul played organ, while Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock played electric piano. Here was a meeting of music’s past, present on future on what would be hailed a groundbreaking album, In A Silent Way.
In A Silent Way was a truly landmark album. Not only was it the start of Miles’ “electric period,” but saw Miles fully embrace fusion. Another first was the way producer Teo Macero edited and arranged In A Silent Way. He incorporated elements of the classical sonata form into In A Silent Way. This is apparent in that the album consists of two extended tracks which feature three distinct parts. The other first was the appearance of John McLaughlin on electric guitar. His playing would play an important part in a groundbreaking and successful album.
It had been four years since a Miles Davis album charted. In A Silent Way reached number 134 in the US Billboard 200 and number forty in the US R&B charts. It also reached number three in the US Jazz charts. Despite the commercial success of In A Silent Way, it divided the opinion of critics.
On its release on 30th July 1969, In A Silent Way divided the opinion of critics. Its experimental nature seemed to be the problem. Critics didn’t seem to get the album. That’s not unusual. Often, a groundbreaking album is way ahead of its time. That was the case with In A Silent Way. It divided the opinion of critics. Not any more.
Since its release in 1969, it’s perceived as a classic album. Without doubt, In A Silent Way is one of Miles Davis’ greatest albums. Both critics and music lovers have belatedly realised this marriage of jazz, fusion, psychedelia and rock was classic album. No wonder. The music is truly futuristic, experimental and innovative. Here was an album that’s been described as for jazz fans who didn’t particularly like rock, and an album for rock fans who who didn’t particularly like jazz. In A Silent Way was all things to all music lovers. The same could be said of Bitches Brew.
Just a few weeks after the release of In A Silent Way, Miles Davis and his band entered the studio to record the followup, Bitches Brew. Between 19th and 21st August 1969, six songs, Pharaoh’s Dance, Bitches Brew, Spanish Key, John McLaughlin, Miles Runs the Voodoo Down and Sanctuary were recorded. They would become a sprawling, ambitious and genre-melting album.
Many of the same musicians returned to CBS 30th Street Studio, in New York. Miles played trumpet and Wayne Shorter soprano saxophone. Dave Holland played double bass, John McLaughlin electric guitar, Joe Zawinul played organ, while Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock played electric piano. New faces included Bennie Maupin on bass clarinet, bassist Harvey Brooks, drummers Larry White and Jack DeJohnette. Adding percussion were Don Alias on congas and Juma Santos on shakers and congas. Producing Bitches Brew was Teo Macero, who heavily edited the album before its release in which was released in April 1970,
Deja Vu. That must have been Miles’ thoughts when Bitches Brew received mixed review. The critics didn’t get what was a revolutionary album. Nor did critics appreciate the looser, improvisational style of Bitches Brew. Another thing critics, especially jazz critics didn’t like, was Miles had apparently turned his back on jazz rhythms. Those critics that “got” Bitches Brew realised that here was an album that was about to revolutionise music.
Miles married avant garde, experimental, fusion, jazz, psychedelia and rock on Bitches Brew. Here was an album that was unorthodox, unconventional, revolutionary and innovative. Part of Bitches Brew’s innovative sound was the rhythm section. It featured two bassists double bassist Dave Holland and Harvey Brooks on electric bass. Two, sometimes three drummers and electric pianist would also play on Bitches Brew. Add to this a myriad of percussionist and and Bitches Brew was a musical pot pourri of sounds, layers and textures. This resulted in Bitches Brew giving birth to a musical genre, fusion.
Fusion would become one of the most successful musical genres of this seventies. This began with the album that gave birth to the genre, Bitches Brew. On its release in April 1970, Bitches Brew reached number thirty-five in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US Jazz charts. Bitches Brew was certified double-platinum. It became the most successful album of Miles’ career. So, given this success it was only fitting that Miles’ showcase some of Bitches Brew at one of New York’s legendary venues, the Fimore East.
Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3.
Between the 17th and 20th June 1970, Miles Davis and his band took the stage at the Filmore East. To a packed and appreciative audience, Miles and his all-star band set about showcasing the third genre Miles had invented.
Previously, Miles had been credited with being one of the musicians who pioneered cool jazz and then modal jazz. While Miles’ role in the birth of these two genres may be disputed, Miles role in the birth of fusion is indisputable. He was there when fusion was born. Now was his opportunity to showcase his latest sound, fusion.
Whilst Bitches Brew saw Miles accompanied by a large band with two bassists and two or three drummers and pianists, he slimmed the lineup down for the four nights at the Fimore.
It was a very different band that featured at the Fimore East. The rhythm section featured bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette. There was no guitarist. There were only electric piano. Chick Corea’s piano was pugged into the left channel. Keith Jarrett’s organ and tambourine was plugged into the right channel. Steve Grossman played soprano and tenor saxophone. Airto Moreira played percussion, flute and added vocals. The band that took to the stage on 17th June 1970 was a mixture of new faces and old friends.
On 17th June 1970, Miles and his band took to the stage. After a brief introduction, the band launch into Directions. The Mask then becomes an eleven minute epic. After that, Miles returns to his fusion debut In A Silent Way, and showcases It’s About That Time. From there, Miles and his band deliver a show stealing version of Bitches Brew. It lasts fourteen magnificent minutes. It’s truly spellbinding. There’s nowhere to go after that, and the show closes with forty seconds of The Theme.
Back in 1970, these five tracks would become the first side of Miles Davis At the Filmore. The tracks were heavily edited to fit onto one side of vinyl. With the advent of CD, there’s no longer the same time restrictions. We can hear the same tracks the way the audience did in 1970. There’s even room for two bonus tracks Paraphernalia from 1968s Miles In The Sky and Footprints from 1966s Miles Smiles. Just like the five tracks from Miles Davis At the Filmore, the music is totally transformed.
Good becomes great, as Miles and his band of pioneering musicians combine musical genres. They combine elements of avant garde, experimental, funk, fusion, jazz, psychedelia and rock. As musical genres melt seamlessly into one, becoming a musical tapestry Miles freewheeling band innovate and create groundbreaking music. That was the case the next three nights.
The following night, 18th June 1970, Miles and his band played seven tracks. Six of the tracks were the same. Directions opened the show, before The Mask, It’s About That Time, Bitches Brew and The Theme. As an encore, Spanish Key became a ten minute epic, before a snippet of The Theme closed the show. Despite the same songs being played, the songs headed in a totally direction. There were twists and turns as songs took on new life and meaning. Songs were reinvented and Miles and his multitalented band captivated and compelled. Then they did the same the next night.
As Miles Davis and his band took the stage on 19th June 1970, the audience wasn’t like he was used to. Many of the audience were rock fans, who’d been won over by In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Whilst he may have alienated some jazz fans, there were many more rock fans than jazz fans. They’d never been to a jazz concert before. That night on 19th June 1970, they popped their jazz cherry.
Just like the previous night Directions opened the show. It was followed by The Mask and It’s About That Time. Then Miles threw a curveball, with a beautiful, haunting cover I Fall In Love Too Easily. Never before had the track sounded like this. It was a mixture of Miles’ old and new. he breathed new life into a familiar track. After that a trio of tracks from Bitches Brew close the show. The ethereal beauty of Sanctuary gives way to a pulsating, dramatic version of Bitches Brew. Literally, it explodes into life as free jazz, funk, fusion, modal, psychedelia and rock combine. It’s a transformation par excellence. So is the bonus track, Miles Runs the Voodoo Down and Sanctuary, another track from Bitches Brew. Of the first three nights featured on Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3, the 19th June 1970, is without doubt the best.
For his final night at the Filmore East, 20th June 1970, mostly, Miles Davis stuck to the same songs as the previous night. This meant Directions opened the show and The Mask gave way to It’s About That Time. Then came a slow and hauntingly wistful I Fall In Love Too Easily. The beauty continued with Sanctuary. Miles and his band kicked loose on Bitches Brew. The funk factor is upped on the nine minute version of Willie Nelson follows. It’s a blistering slice of uber funky music, where the rhythm section and horns become yin and yang. There’s no way Miles could’ve topped this, so just like each night, a brief version of The Theme closes the show.
Six months after the fourth and final show at the Fimore East, Miles Davis At Filmore: Live At The Fimore East was released in December 1970. It reached number 123 in the US Billboard 200 and number one on the US Jazz charts. Miles Davis’ career had been rejuvenated. He was enjoying commercial success, which for four long years, had eluded him. Now, into the fourth decade of his career, Miles was back.
Despite Miles being just forty-four, his career had lasted twenty-six years. He made his professional debut when he left high school as an eighteen year old. Since then, Miles Davis had proved to be one of the most innovative jazz musicians of his career. He was perceived as the Godfather and founding father of cool jazz and modal jazz. He’d been at the forefront of these musical genres. Twenty years later, Miles made musical history again.
Now he was the Godfather and founding father of fusion. He brought together jazz, funk, psychedelia and rock. To that, he added elements of avant garde, experimental, free jazz and modal jazz. However, mostly, it was jazz, funk, psychedelia and rock that inspired Miles as he sought to reinvent himself and his music. Miles had been inspired by artists like Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone and James Brown. He met these artist through his second wife Betty Mabry. Having been inspired by these disparate influences, Miles fused them together on two classic albums In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew. They’re two of the best albums of Miles Davis’ “electric period.”
Tracks from In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew feature on Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3, a four disc box set recently released by Sony Music. It’s essentially Miles Davis At Filmore: Live At The Fimore East, which was released in 1970. The main difference is the tracks haven’t been edited. They can now be heard in all their glory. There’s even three bonus tracks on Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3. All this means that Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3, is the equivalent to having front row seats for the four nights as Miles Davis and his band make musical history.
MILES AT THE FILMORE-MILES DAVIS 1970: THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 3.