Thursday, May 28, 2009

Miles Davis - Dark Magus (1974) (mp3, 160kbps)

Tatu is for me the best recording of the Pete Cosey era. Miles has gone through all his keyboardists. Herbie Hancock, Chic Corea, Kieth Jarrett, Joe Zawinul. He tries little known Cedric Lawsin and then it's no keyboard player. From 1972 to his 1975 exile from music that lasted 6 years, the keboard player in the Miles Davis band was Miles Davis. At 48 years of age, the hard living has clearly caught up with him, but its just as clear that he is unble to stop composing, playing and performing. The keyboard gave him a physically less taxing way to be part of the jam.

But when that trumpet comes forth, oh my! Let me set this up for you on Tatu, the first song on the second disc. No keyboard player, but three guitarists and two saxophones, and drums, and percussion. Nine people on stage at Carnegie Hall, no setlist, no songs. Miles is doing a lot of conducting throughout the performance, composing even as the thing proceeds.

So, Tatu starts with a fairly safe funk riff that Miles introduces on the organ. It's picked up by the guitar and bass, and we get guitar solos trading with Miles' absolutely wicked organ work. Pete Cosey urges him on with soaring and warped effects of his own. Miles is ready to let this jam simmer until around 8:20, when he breaks it down and we get dueling sax solos. Up until this point, it's pretty standard fare for this era. Strong elements of the music on 'Pangea', 'In Concert: Philharmonic' and 'Agarta' are present here. But when the sax solos begin, the three guitars go to a totally different feel. The comping is slow and the chords have a major feel. Henderson's bass stays in a similar groove with offsets, stops and starts, all orchestrated by the bandleader in real time. Miles might be too hurtin' to play much trumpet, but he's feeling the music tonight.

At about 10:26, Henderson picks up on the minimal feel and starts to just lay down the root note, over and over again. The drone effect gives beautiful emphasis to the saxes and guitars. After more than thirteen minutes, we still haven't heard the trumpet once.

Things begin to really devolve around the end of the sax solos. Miles signals change with the keyboard, but it doesn't take. The soloist is having a hard time letting go. But at 15:09, he's rescued by the rhythm guitar of Reggie Lucas. And now it sounds like the Rolling Stones, switching out of that soft major mode and playing some blues! The bass threatens to switch back to what we started with sixteen minutes ago. But oh, what's that? Miles has his horn.

Now this band has to deliver. They have to make way and roll out the red carpet with a groove so tasty, because they probably don't know when this opportunity will come again. He comes into the ring somewhat tentative, but making his intentions clear. Then he's conducting again and getting ready to take flight. The wah-wah pedal and the echo can't hide the obvious pain and difficulty he's having - they just make it louder. This is evil live.

At 18:51 it's time to run back to the safety of the keyboard. It appears that the song is over, but, even if the trumpet solo took a lot out of him (also - you always leave them wanting more!), he's still in the music. So now its back and forth with the rel heavy stuff, led by Miles' atonal assaults on the organ. But in a moment he'll stop with a completely innocuous little riff, something you would hear Zawinul play. In the spirit of a World-Music vibe, we get a finger piano solo. It sounds almost like a toy, and yet it usher's in the big finish.

Miles is in charge all the way. There are no more stops. No more conducting. Now it's time to really see what this band can do. Set up the groove and write the song while you play it. The organ does not play any set progression, it just plays the song, like it was always that way. Starting at 21:35, you have some of the best Miles Davis music ever recorded, and probably some of the most unknown. When that horn comes back for the last time, he doesn't sound pained, he sounds like a prize fighter bouncing around the ring and pumping his fists before the fight. And his band rejoices.

This is hard music, to be sure. And there are no flashy sidemen. That six years without making music had to have been a dark time for Miles. Taking him away from music is like taking music away from music. How could either exist? But through this music, you get to experience the horror of that slide as its happening, while never leaving the relative safety of your own home.

March 30, 1974
Carnegie Hall, New York City

Moja 25:23
Wili 25:02
Tatu 25:21
Nne 25:30

  • Pete Cosey – guitar
  • Miles Davis – organ, trumpet
  • Al Foster – drums
  • Dominique Gaumont – guitar
  • Michael Henderson – bass
  • Azar Lawrence – tenor saxophone
  • Dave Liebman – flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
  • Reggie Lucas – guitar
  • Teo Macero – producer
  • James Mtume – percussion
The link is in the comments

1 comment:

MPomy said...