Miles Davis – Beyond The Agharta Pangaea (Voodoo Down / So What! VDD 2021-007)

Miles Davis, ‘Beyond The Agharta Pangaea’ (Voodoo Down / So What! VDD 2021-007)

Disk One: Band warming up / Turnaroundphase / Tune In 5 / Maiysha / Mother Dearest Mother (42:19)

Disk Two: Right Off / Mtume / Latin / IFE / Mother Dearest Mother (46:59)

In 1975, Miles Davis was in a bad way. His earlier drug usage had him against the wall with a bunch of reoccurring health problems overarching and causing the bandleader to rely on a system of painkillers while he continued to perform his shows in Japan and America. The 54 shows that year were the fewest he’d played in 9 years but weren’t without their issues – Miles would suffer terribly with ulcers, a hernia and a dislocating hip that seemed to slip out occasionally, causing Miles no end of pain and would also leave him unable to flex his leg enough to use the effects pedals for his trumpet, he would take to kneeling on the floor to switch the modes with his hands instead, while refusing to face the audience, possibly out of vanity, leaving critics to bemoan the lack of audience cohesion. 

The final three shows he played in the US before his 5 year retirement were two shows at the Avery Fisher Hall, New York on the 1st of July and a final outing at the Schafer Music festival on the 1st of September. ‘Beyond The Agharta Pangaea’ presents the two shows from the Avery Fisher Hall from ‘band tapes’. 

From the previous band recordings that the So What label have used, they were in perfect soundboard stereo – While these tapes are in stereo too, they’re slightly overcooked and sound a little more like vintage FM recordings (A little static, a bit of distance) Disk one is also slightly clearer than disk two – that’s not to dissuade your listening pleasure – there’s lots to enjoy here, it’s not as clear as some of the previous releases. 

Two sets played, each lasting around 45 minutes each (Enough music, realistically, for 4 sides of vinyl) – This jazz is treacly thick, dark and as furious as a felled nest of bees. If you’ve owned and listened to ‘Agharta’ and ‘Pangaea’ (And you should!) you’ll know the vibe but the feeling of unrest, blackness, politics, upsurges, war is, while uneasy, maybe claustrophobic, definitely dark, forceful, bold and thrilling but twinned with elements that are serene and cool. 

The artwork is some of the best that the label have produced. An in-motion image of Miles on his trumpet on the front against a lit stage in pinks / reds, complimented by the back cover, showing Miles stood playing the organ. The images inside reflect this – One of Miles in the back tray in the same style and one of Sam Morrison, saxophonist and flutist in the band. 

Not THE set to collect but a very nice compliment to the end of this phase of Miles’ career before he retreated for the sake of his health for a while. 

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