Miles Davis, ‘Did Keith Play That Tune’ (Voodoo Down / So What! VDD 2021 – 004)
Disk 1 – Directions / Honky Tonk / Sivad / What I Say / Sanctuary (44:28)
Disk 2 – It’s About That Time / Yesternow / Keith Jarrett (Funky Tonk) / Inamorata – Sanctuary (Closing theme) (47:25)
Recorded live at the Tivoli Konsertsal, Copenhagen, Denmark. November 8th, 1971.
Miles and the Davis sextette launched an extensive European tour in the autumn of 1971, their first non-US gigs following the inclusion of Keith Jarrett and Leon Chancler and in promotion of the ‘Jack Johnson’ album and Miles’ more recent directions in to fusion.
This recording finds the band midway through that tour in Copenhagen, Denmark at the Tivoli Konsertsal, a fairly new, modernist development, inspired by the Bauhaus movement after the original concert hall was destroyed in 1944.
A Danmarks radio TV broadcast master, the sound is a damp stereo, a tad more muffled than a soundboard or band feed, it is powerful and punchy with a bass that’s deeper than a submariner but enough breadth to it to ensure that the band are all picked up.
The first set, running at a short 44 minutes, begins with ‘Directions’, the Joe Zawinul creation that was unceremoniously sprung on the public as a studio take on the compilation of the same name, 10 years later. As an introduction for the nights proceedings, it’s nothing less than coming to the front of the stage and offering the audience out for a fight – bellicose, moody, rampant and unrelenting, this piece takes up around a quarter of the sets timing, dragging the crowd into an almost brutal onslaught of avant-garde honks, punishing drums and thick vibes.
It melts lightly in to ‘Honky Tonk’, Keith Jarrett leading the band in with a glitteringly light piano dance before Michael Henderson rolls in the swaggering bass. The whole piece is street smart and loose footed with a snaking trumpet solo running eager through it all. Leon Chancler keeps the rhythm tight while Charles Alias and James Forman spark together alongside.
‘Sivad’ has a huge amount of snake-like curve – The undulating bass lines stalk along side the martial drumming and other percussions before Miles opens it all up for the propulsive, ‘What I Say’, which is unrelenting from start to end. Deep kettle drumming, tribal bass, menacing organ stabs and the most maddening saxophone lines – The very epitome of Miles’ fusion and vision.
The set finishes with possibly the quietest track that I think I’ve heard the sextet play, ‘Sanctuary’. Quite unlike the beast that ends the second set, this is almost like a lullaby – Albeit, one arranged by Miles Davis – Lean trumpet over a concentric ripple of piano leads out the set before the broadcast drops to a very abrupt halt.
The second set starts with ‘It’s About That Time’, one of the compelling tracks from ‘In A Silent Way’, a composition that starts like a white canvas before Miles and the sextet grab their brushes and start to daub a scene a là ‘Gurnica’ upon it. Building up, layer upon layer of un-melody, the skittering, haphazard style loose but keen. It transforms neatly in to ‘Yesternow’, a much more solidly melodic piece – Keith takes the lead by taking the band through a measured ambience while Michael walks in an occurring, intermittent bass-line. Miles returns to the centre after a while, his entrance a subdued slide to join in, the pace building slowly as each band member adds to the brew, their part – Gary takes over from Miles around the 8 minute mark.
‘Keith Jarrett’ appears a glisteningly light piece, sexy jazz with a neat line in melody. It isn’t reaching out to be too avant, though elements of that evidently spill forward as the track lurches on and the neatness spills in to a quasi-tribal mulch as Keith eye-balls his boss, who must have suggested a turn to something a little more brutalist. This folds out into ‘Inamorata’, a heavy footed stomp with elephantine squalls pinched out by Miles. Sounding like a mix between Daktari and Dick Tracy – the atonal quality of the piece steadily mutates and surges as Miles and Gary Bartz go head on, each playing their own formations without wishing to stand down.
The song seems to drift from place to place like glacial plates before settling in to ‘Sanctuary’ – A continuation of the trope from the last track but with a heady, woozy feel to it. The set colludes in an almighty pile up, the band all doing their best to measure out to see who can go furthest out first.
The cover is first class as usual Miles appears along side Keith in a dual colour / black – white amalgam, the other players in the band are also name checked too for those of you who are more encyclopaedically inclined about the form. This is also repeated on the rear with a cool stage pic of Miles.
Inside there’s the standard black and white shots of both Miles and Keith Jarrett along with a large clutch of information regards the track-listing, the group, the venue and the mastering.
Another must for Jazz / Fusion fans. Incredible quality, keenly kept and, unlike most of the official catalogue, unedited. The running times may be short but considering the diversity that runs through each set, you wouldn’t feel short changed.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)