Miles Davis, ‘Brussels Concert 1982’ (Voodoo Down Records VDD 2021-003)
CD; First Set – Band warming up / Back Seat Betty / My Mans Gone Now / AidaSecond set – IFE / Fat Time / Jean-Pierre (78:40)
DVD; First set and second set (1:22:20)
Recorded live at Salle Henry Leboeuf, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, Belgium. May 8th, 1982.
By 1982, Miles Davis was back on the road again. His self imposed exile between 1975 to 1981 wasn’t househusband based as John Lennon’s had been but was forced upon him due to various health reasons, no doubt an extension of his drug usage in the middle years of his career. He returned to the studio to record the album, “The Man With The Horn”, a much less eccentric mix than it could have been, shuffling Miles’ regular jazz style and gelling with a more pop oriented sound, his infatuation with Prince (“His shit was the most exciting music I was hearing in 1982.”) obviously bearing more than just a fleeting overview on his works, the trumpeter was most possibly eyeing up the charts again and wondering how he might turn heads after his absence.
Clocking in at an incredible 78 minutes, these shows are in beautiful FM quality and TV broadcast quality – The mastering is a tiny bit flatter than it could be on the FM recording but that’s personally objective – The rest of you might find that it’s completely on point sound wise. That the audio has been provided by the So What! label should give you some idea regards the quality anyway – It sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday.
What’s standard for Miles is that this first set borders on lunatic fast at points – Dodging between TV cop show, space psychedelia, shoe gazing dirge, avant-jazz and yacht rock, the set has seemingly no filters – The band, under the prestige of Miles barely stop to measure out their progress, instead easily throwing line between line between line.
The second set is a much more laid back affair with Davis and the band tracking back to the early 1970’s and a funkily slow, abbreviated take on ‘IFE’ from 1974’s belated, “Big Fun” album. The pace speeds up a little for the newer recording, ‘Fat Time’ – Not too far a distant cousin, the further we travel in to the song, the more interesting it seems to get – Mike Sterns guitar for instance one of the more interesting inclusions – Quietly taking a backing role, the flamenco styled rhythm that he injects in to the track at the middle section onwards really takes the song through “Sketches Of Spain” territories without breaking the New-Yorkian jazz vibes.
The bonus DVD-R that features with the set features both sets over two hours – Both in reasonable VHS quality, HD having not been created in 1982. This is a video rip from the YouTube channel ‘ledavdave corporation’, the watermark that was included on the original upload blurred out. This is all taken from the broadcast, ‘Miles Davis – Live in Europe’, directed by Steven Dyckman. There’s no sign of the provenance of this film on tumblr, YouTube or, that I can find, on the internet so it’s source remains a mystery to me.
The covers for the CD are beautiful quality – Neat and tight fonts over a colour image of Miles on the trumpet as the front cover, the same on the back but with a brightly stage lit image. A very linear insert detailing the musicians and the set list inside – It just doesn’t reveal much about the bonus DVD. The package is topped off with a nice looking obi-strip in Japanese.
I really enjoyed these sets – After listening to a few of Mile’s late 60’s, early 70’s shows it was great to hear how he’d mixed up his style, especially after encountering Princes motif, the quality is pretty much second to none and so I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this to jazz and the more curious funk fan alike.
Excellent review, Stuart. I am a big fan of Miles’ early 80s band and their recorded work. As you point out, both sound and performance here are stunning quality (but I agree the second set has crisper mastering). This recording makes a nice companion piece to the official ‘We Want Miles’ album recorded the previous year. I never understood why Mike Stern copped so much flack from critics back in the day – his playing and searing stratocaster tone are seriously smoking, and a perfect counterpoint to Miles’ solos and Bill Evan’s sax. Another classic release by the Voodoo Down label.