Miles Davis – Antibes Jazz Festival (Voodoo Down Records VDD 2021-002)

Miles Davis, ‘Antibes Jazz Festival’ (Voodoo Down Records VDD 2021-002)

Disk 1 – Turnaroundphrase / Tune In 5 / Untitled Original 730424c / Zimbabwe (44:30)

Disk 2 – IFE / Tune In 5 (43:43)

Antibes Jazz Festival, La Pineda, Juan-les-Pins, France. July 20, 1973. 

There are very few Miles Davis reviews on CMR as releases, apart from the ones the very scarce Japanese labels such as Hannibal or Legendary Collection Series seem to come out every once in a blue moon. In fact, the last release I wrote about was ‘Tokyo 1973 Rebroadcast’, an un-credited label set and that was 8 years ago. However, since the launch of the Voodoo Down label in 2020, their output of Miles CDs measures 3 in less than 6 months. The first was recorded exactly a month after the previously mentioned Tokyo gig on July 20, 1973 at the Antibes Jazz Festival – lifted from the band recording tape, this presents what is assumed to be the full first and second sets played that day – A short recording at 44 and 43 minutes respectively – It’s a wonderful chance to catch the ‘electric’ incarnation of Miles and his band at top form.

The tape has one main drawback for the first set – While it’s stereo, it’s a wide stereo and mainly weighted towards the right – Miles’ trumpet to the left, the drums to the midddle but the drums are heavier to the right giving this recording a lop-sided feel – If you’re playing through speakers, dependent on how far apart they are, it might not seem as prominent – On headphones, it’s a different story. It doesn’t make the recording unlistenable by any means but if you’re a stereo purist, buyer beware. The second set is less noticeably one sided. 

The music itself however is mesmerising. From the first set; Unrelenting, spacial jazz that comes from an unfolding dialogue – Sexy, pulsating, gnarly and hot – Miles is directing his band wordlessly while giving them the upmost confidence to try following him how they feel best. It strongly seems to convey an unrest within it’s heart but still keeps itself together as it storms on ahead with a volatility that can only come from protest and one that’s being provoked. 
The second set starts slightly less frenetic but certainly no less wild – Michael Henderson’s bass lumbers through, ‘IFE’, while the manic guitars chide and provoke. There are forms but, as Miles had started to build his music with Karlheinz Stockhausen in reference, as with most of the shows played in this period, each of them breed from the last, diversifying and mutating fluidly. There are times when the music slows for a few seconds, bluffing the audience in to thinking that it has reached a conclusion before the band enter a next phase. The second take on ‘Tune In 5’ takes the band on a wilder ride, jazz noir maybe, and this is where Al Foster tears in to his playing, leading the band through afro-climax, pushing the limits of the rhythm. 

It’s a pleasure to sit at a point where Miles had spotted the work of Jimi Hendrix for instance and snapshot that that’s where jazz had to go next and, by having both guitarists Pete Cosey and Reggie Lucas in his band, has a perfect foil to the wind instruments that were the old, trad style of Jazz while paying tribute to Jimi Hendrix, who’s inspiration first fired Miles to move his music on by large steps. 

The packaging looks great – A mirrored, two tone image of Miles adorns the front with a great mixture of clear fonts – the rear is set of nice and cleanly with enough info about the concert, the titles of the songs and the players to draw you in. The interior is laid out in a stark black and white and repeats the information from the rear again. The label have also given the set a neat little obi-strip to round it off with. 

Essential for seasoned Jazz collectors, of a strong, if inessential, draw for the curious but an incredible document of just where Miles was at that time. 

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