Miles Davis – Live On The Corner (So What! / Voodoo Down VDD 2022-017)

Miles Davis, ‘Live On The Corner’ (So What! / Voodoo Down VDD 2022-017)

Disk 1: Opening announcement on stage / Rated X / Honky Tonk (incomplete) / Black Satin (incomplete) / Right Off / Sanctuary / Closing announcement on stage (56:34)
Disk 2: Opening announcement (with band warming up) / Black Satin / Rated X / Honky Tonk / Right Off / Sanctuary – closing announcement (51:35)
Disk 3: Rated X (incomplete) / Honky Tonk / Right Off / Black Satin / IFE (incomplete)
DVD: Prince of Darkness (Rated X / Right Off)
Disk One – Live at Ann Arbour Blues and Jazz Fest, Otis Spann Memorial Field, Ann Abour, MI. September 10th, 1972 / Disk Two – Live at Paul’s Mall, Boston, MA, September 14th, 1972 / Disk 3 – Live at Frost Ampitheatre, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, October 1st, 1972.
Taking a look through various lists on Google they all show that 1972’s Miles Davis album, ‘On The Corner’ is generally seen, not as a footnote, but commercially, certainly not as favourable. After an initial flub when it was released, peaking at 156 on the Billboard top 200.
The Guardian newspaper placed it at 14 on one of their charts in 2019 admitting, “Long ignored, the session is on it’s way to rehabilitation”. Rolling Stone in 1991 placed it at number 12 suggesting that it “brought forth deep street funk cut with African and Indian textures”. Albumism’s readers poll of 2018 had it at number 6 – 6% of the total of votes (Such a mixed bag was the vote however, ‘Kind Of Blue’ took 23% of the votes and was polled top). Stereogum in 2014 were much more generous with their votes placing it at number 1 gracing it with the words, “It’s not a jazz album. It’s not an anything album. It’s one of the greatest records of the 20th century, and easily one of Miles David’ most astonishing achievements. It’s a masterpiece”. Jazzfuel seemed to forget it exists.
Taking its inspiration from the streets and restaurants of New York, the whole album was shaped from a dusty wax heart – The sound of the big apple was a fusion that rocked, danced, fought and argued with itself while taking in all comers. Much like this concept, everything was thrown in to the mix – Aiming at the market of the young African American – Miles took an ever changing band of musicians, recorded parts in ever-rotating sequence and, with the help of producer Teo Macero, edited the resultant parts together to compile this bold, murky, sleazy LP. Though, by this point, it would appear that most of the youth couldn’t care.
The week long recording for the album would be the last complete studio session output from Miles in the 70’s, focusing on playing live in the main, Miles would intermittently record in patches before his break from the industry in 1975. In promotion of the album, Miles took some of the musicians from the recordings out on the road – Carlos Garnett, Reggie Lucas, Cedric Lawson, Michael Henderson, Al Foster, James Mtumbe Foreman, Badal Roy and Khalil Balakrishna all prominent in their field brought their forces to the stage to best replicate the sound produced in the studio.
So What! / Voodoo Down present 3 incomplete concerts taken from FM broadcast tapes. All recorded within one month in 1972, all in advance of the records eventual release. And, as incomplete as they may be – each disk tops out at about an hour – this is a wonderful way of capturing these wildly improvised sets with a bare thread that connects them. With tapes of this age, there’s a few issues – Flipping between clear to slightly muffled on the first two disks, it’s apparent but not an issue if played through speakers. The final disk has an odd ambiance as if it’s more of an audience recording or was taped from the radio but through the radios speakers – an open air surrounds it, there are also snippets of conversation that can be heard, though these are faint enough to be illegible, I would almost suggest that it’s an audience tape instead.
Disk One – Live at Ann Arbour Blues and Jazz Fest, Otis Spann Memorial Field, Ann Abour, MI. September 10th, 1972.
The set starts with a peaceful enough introduction but quickly turns up the fury to become an almost instant assault. With the musicians almost competing for the prize of who can play hardest for longest, it’s almost inconceivable that this is a composition as a form as the band play, under Miles’ instructions to play as “what I want to hear is what you don’t know”, unstructured, feral, free and as loose as bees, the band mass a battalion of noise and notes in increasingly dizzying meters.
Furious and pulsing, so much goes down while the band are up on stage – it doesn’t feel like they’re all fighting for room at the same point, however – these guys are all feeding in to the same channel, respectfully mindful of Miles’ centre, the leader picking out instruments like voodoo spells when the form requests to dizzying effect when he feels. The first track powers along as rapidly as it starts with very little space for any of the band to take pause, it seems (There is a break after the 22 minute, ‘Rated X while the band take a tentative pause but also apply “space” to this prelude.)
‘Honky Tonk’ and ‘Black Satin’ are both pared down compared to the opener, that’s not to say by a country mile, though – the former has a wound down trip about it, certainly more melodic in places while it carefully watches it’s step, the latter gathers itself carefully for a slow-boil, reaching a heat at a careful pace, not unlike a pulse.
Short by comparison, ‘Right Off’ seeks a furious wah-wah guitar line and holds its stride, watching that and dancing around it like a snake. Basket ball dribble bass, wigged out synths and taciturn percussion keep an admirable pose.
Finally, ‘Sanctuary’ brings back the dark heart of madness that ‘Rated X’ promised but at just under a minute long, it’s a swift, brief swing at most.
Disk Two – Live at Paul’s Mall, Boston, MA, September 14th, 1972.
Four days later Miles and nonet are in Boston, their set is being broadcast on WBCN-FM. The set list changes from the norm, beginning instead with ‘Black Satin’. There is, before that, a rambling introduction by the DJ who is on hand to describe Miles’ stage attire as the band warm up. The set is as frenetic as the previous but funkier as opposed to blistering – ‘Black Satin’ falls between modal structure and outright temper, keeping little of the throb that pinned the first instance, the band lean heavily on the unfinished, improvisational form, swinging left and right between heavy static and bullish thump while Miles craws in between on horns.
This changes as ‘Honky Tonk’ limbers up – The more openly “Jazz” style fronts in it’s cool, sexy grooves, while it’s far from the music that Miles had started to work on just 5 years before, the sense of a club-set still remains while flutters of concreté edge in like fading radio waves on the air.
‘Right Off’ storms straight in again, unrelenting and anxious, it has a delicious baseline that recalls the best in rock as Reggie peels out liquid, abstract guitar lines against Al’s cymbal playing. Miles trumpet almost militarily reigning against them all, then chirping out stattaco notes before turning again in to free-form impulse.
Disk 3 – Live at Frost Ampitheatre, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, October 1st, 1972.
Finally, the last show of this tour. According to plosin, the gig was marred by fighting and gate crashers invading the venue as Miles opened for the New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Current reports also suggesting that the concert was recorded for future release, though, after the snubbing of the album by the buying public, it was obviously left to reside in the Columbia vaults.
The set list is almost back to normal, ‘Chieftan’ is ommited from this release but ‘Black Satin’ is moved to the end, followed by an embryonic ‘IFE’. A reprise of ‘Right Off’ is also missing. ‘Rated X’ is much more lurching this evening, it has a stoned slump to it as opposed to the ritualistic madness, that, in turn is saved for ‘Right Off’ which begins with a rapid-fire march, moves in to a funky, elastic, repetitive baseline with the siren of a guitar part which quickly mutates in to something much more Hendrixesque then splits leaving space for Cedric’s mash of keyboard playing over James Mtumbe’s hollow percussion.
‘IFE’ features it’s haunting refrain, aching alongside it’s bubbly percussion, separating out to become almost transparently fine, at around 9:31 it behinds it’s elongated accent in to it’s more hurried tempo before Cedric joins in with tooth-wiggling, discordant jabs at the keyboard that float out like decreasing circles. The set ends abruptly at 15:23.
On the DVD we have a short set (5 songs) lasting 27 minutes broadcast from the Village East, NYC on the 12th of January, 1973.
The Plosin site describes this except as, “This concert excerpt was included in Teppei Inokuchi’s film, Prince of Darkness (1974). I have been unable to find a more complete recording.

Kind of Blue 005 is clearly a dub of the audio track of this film. In addition, the CD includes six “Tribute to Miles” tracks by various Davis alumni — Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Ron Carter, John Scofield, Marcus Miller, among others — that were done for American Public Radio’s 1990 Miles Davis Radio Project.”

Despite what is described on the disk, there are 5 tracks here: ‘Chieftan’, ‘Rated X’, ‘The Hen’, ‘Right Off’ and 5 seconds of ‘Honky Tonk’. As always, it’s interesting to see these films as they add an extension to the audio – seeing these guys react, play and draw upon Miles’ leadership as well as concoct all manner of magic is incredible. Despite the good to poor quality of the video and, by extension, the audio, there’s a lot to be gleaned still from this set. It is edited to look blended as per a super-8 film that has been double exposed, elements are slowed down, chopped and saturated which adds a suitable affect that’s keeping in with Teppis’ vision but also looks effective to the set itself. Maybe it’s more intriguing rather than a must watch but as a document for its time, it’s clear to see what the director was aiming for.

I’ll oftentimes mention this but the label have outdone themselves this time in presentation – the covers use the blaxploitation characters from the front of the original LP cover but put them over a hot-pink background. The disks themselves are marked by the same theme but with a different colour background on each disk. Controversially, there’s no tracklisting on the rear of the case, all the info is inside after all, but it certainly makes for a more asthetically pleasing package.
For those that feel jazz was too restrained previously, historians of the changing times, Fans of Jimi, Sly, Stockhausen and whacked out, experimental but rhythmic styles. This is a great set – The variable sound sources keep this from being greatly essential but certainly worthy of interest.

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