Miles Davis Live at the Fillmore East Review

BBC Review

a couple of seconds of this contains enough musical information to frazzle your...

Dan Hill 2002

Discovering Live At The Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It's About That Time is like chancing across a Spanish galleons-worth of buried treasure. A completely unreleased concert, it's as good as any other recordings Davis and his various shape-shifting units made during his phenomenally creative 1968-1975 period. Which is another way of saying that this is the jazz record of this, and indeed any other year, so it's pretty astonishing that this so-called "Lost Sextet" recording has laid low till now.

There's little to add to the scholarly (and not-so-scholarly) body of writing about Miles' genius at this point. This music's now very well known too - comprising the then-imminent Bitches Brew in various embryonic forms, and one earlier track ("Masqualero", from 1962's "Sorcerer"). But no matter how familiar you are with this-period Miles, It's About That Time is still shocking - it has the same incredibly raw electricity that, say, Dylan's Albert Hall concert has; far edgier than Bitches Brew turned out to be. It's sometimes as if the band are impatiently and angrily re-inventing the material every few seconds. That over-used cliché about 'telepathic interplay' was surely never more appropriate. The sheer rush of ideas is astonishing.

It's almost too good to listen to. In the same way that a weekday edition of the New York Times is said to contain more information than the average person in 17th Century England was likely to encounter in a lifetime, a couple of seconds of this contains enough musical information to frazzle your synapses forever.

Each band member plays their ass off. In his last regular gig with Miles, Wayne Shorter, rightly lauded for his nimble peerless grace elsewhere, here sounds a fully paid-up member of the militant Free movement - as fearsome as Malcolm X, Amiri Baraka and Coltrane's Ascension. His screams and squawks spatter the action paintings and irregularly applied sciences emanating from Chick Corea's harshly distorted Fender Rhodes. Dave Holland, often on electric bass, is somehow unspeakably funky and freakily out-there at the same time. Only poor old Airto occasionally gets lost amidst the howls of electricity, struggling to be heard above Jack DeJohnette's surging drums.

Miles? Well, he's Miles. At the peak of his powers, and combining particularly well with Corea, who's also never sounded more inspirationally inventive.

Over 30 years on, this stuff still sounds more sci-fi than pretty much anything since 1970. The group were opening for the Steve Miller Blues Band and Neil Young & Crazy Horse, and it's telling that the gig ends in shrieks of feedback rather than acclaim. A couple of brave, battered souls call for an encore, but this music was heading straight over the heads of the audience, on a collision course with the future. As Miles said, this was "a mother of a band" - amongst his best, which gives an idea of how important a release this is. Jazz album of the year fer sure. Next year too, probably. Depends how good the forthcoming In A Silent Way sessions box is...

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