Miles Davis – Round About Roman Empire (So What! / Voodoo Down VDD 2023-24)

Miles Davis, ‘Round About Roman Empire’ (So What! / Voodoo Down VDD 2023-24)

Disk 1: Directions / This (Incomplete) / Round Midnight / I Fall In Love Too Easily / Masqualero (39:56)

Disk 2: Bitches Brew / Miles Runs The Voodoo Down / Agitation / I Fall In Love Too Easily / Sanctuary – The Theme (45:26)

DVD: (Broadcast version 1 & 2) intro / Bitches Brew / Miles Runs The Voodoo Down / I Fall In Love Too Easily / Sanctuary – The Theme / Directions / Masqualero

Near enough three months after the release of ‘In A Silent Way’, Miles had eschewed the thought of it and made strides to pick up on his next album – Indeed, he went back to the studio and recorded just that the month after it had appeared in the shops. And though, ‘Bitches Brew’ wouldn’t be released for another 9 months, Miles and his quintet were back on the road in two short months, heading out to Italy for the first dates of a short European Tour. This tour, ostensibly to promote the previous release featured more than an upheaval in terms – disregarding what the public would have been hearing for fresh, Miles was sewing the stones collected of his next Mount Rushmore while also using some of more familiar material to riff around. As musically reaching as is first forays in to the electronic side of his artistry, this was a place where rhythmic mathematics mixed with playful improvisation – No two performances were ever going to be the same, as much as the album was performed in the studio in short bursts then patiently sewn together, the shows were essentially a mirror of that, though these turns were given longer to run.
At the Teatro Sistina, Rome, Miles would play an evening show only, this would be broadcast on TV by RAI with the channel showing a highlights package around 28 minutes, the full show was also aired on the radio using the broadcasters FM alternate.
A tape of this broadcast is used here in stunning clarity over two appended disks running at just short of 40 minutes each (The tricky thing with collecting miles are the shows that just slide over the 80 minute mark, rendering the disks’ running time a little skimpy – Unfortunatley, it seems that So What! / Voodoo Down don’t have source from the show in Milan from the evening previous, or, of they do, it’s not a good recording), certainly less dark than the period that was to follow in Miles’ next phase of politicking, the show has all the hall marks of the swift changes between the Americanised, pop-collar jazz styles and it’s frequently rattling, frenetic dance style. There are many highlights to be taken from the recording – Including the busy stop-start nature of ‘Directions’ which folds an rolls between delicate electric organ, the hyperistic clatter of the cymbals and Wayne Shorter’s skittish sax bursts. ‘This’, takes the occasion further featuring what sounds like tape effects, various electronic flute whistles, wheedling  
“I Fall In Love Too Easily’ is much more trad-Davis – Despite the almost mechanical drumming, there’s a definite softness to it’s appearance until Miles, hinting at the direction that he wants to take, steers the
 band then crashes them headlong in to ‘Masqualero’ when the riotus mood steps in again. A track that’s painted in Spanish glaze, the track makes more of its rhythm than it’s avant-affectation. Sonorously deep, quietly moody, achingly cool. 
Disk two begins with two lengthy work-outs – on ‘Bitches Brew’. A track that should be, in theory, impossible to circumnavigate live but obviously using the improvisational qualities that the band were instructed to play in the studio and leaning loosely on the themes that make it, it soon broadens out to take on many more forms – A rat-a-tat, millitarial punch of Miles’ horn starting at the 7:35 mark is preceded by a wash of of heavy-set wild improv moving out towards a chattering, stattaco break down, giving space for some manic keyboard stepping by Chick Corea.
‘Miles Runs The Voodoo Down’ is, by contrast a cooler beast – Despite call and response by Miles and Wayne via their respective instruments, there’s almost a calmer quality that ebbs through the track, that is, until the band then begin to turn maxamillist again and ramp up towards the funkier, ‘Agitation’ (There’s a fault with one of the channels here at 0:50 to 1:01 as the sound quickly dips to the left before drawing back in to both. 
We then hear a reprisal of, ‘I Fall In Love Too Easily’, it’s quiet bliss punctuated by a burst of rowdy trumpet, easing just as quietly in to ‘Sanctuary / The Theme’ for the sets dizzying ending.
The DVD features two TV broadcasts of the show the first running 30:17 is most obviously a broadcast, an indelible watermark brushed out on the top right of the screen is a wonderful B&W pro-shot from various different angles showing the small quintet on stage – primellary the only mover being Miles as he slowly slinks about the stage, presiding over his band. Pre-faced with the words on the screen, ‘I protagonisti Miles Davis’, the card to this shows a fleeting glimpse of the stage before starting with ‘This’. None of the songs are in the ‘played’ order though neither do the clips appear to show shorter versions of these songs – they’re edited so slightly, anyone unfamiliar with the recordings would happily take them on face value. There’s a red / purple strap that appears at the bottom of the screen from time to time to remind us of who we’re watching, however, it’s only Miles’ name that’s relayed, as opposed to mentioning any one else from the band. 
Version two is also a vintage rebroadcast, this time with an embellished watermark towards the bottom left of the screen, less short than the first broadcast, it’s also shorter by around 3 minutes – neither is it in order like the last show. The card at the beginning splashed, ’Schegge. Realizzazione Sara Cipriani’ before starting with ’This’. It reveals that this is a rebroadcast cast from the Jazz off-shoot on RAI TV that regularly broadcast classic concerts, this having been originally shown in November, 1992. 
The packaging is a simplistic though stylish affair, following the form the label use. Full colour outers with images taken from the show, a neat typeface and, thankfully, the date isn’t blocked by the OBI strip making it easier to catalogue if, like I, you prefer to splice your boots in among the official releases chronologically.   
Another great release by this label who nearly constantly deliver. This show – standing astride the acoustic / electric Miles is a great example of the changes that were being made through the end of the 60’s as the leader began to change directions. Its quality is again incredible and would be a prime contender for inclusion in your jazz collection. 

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