Miles Davis - Bitches Brew Live ★★★★

Columbia Legacy 88697 81485 2 | Miles Davis (t), Gary Bartz (as; ss), Chick Corea (el p), Keith Jarrett (org), Dave Holland (b), Jack DeJohnette (d) and Airto (perc). Rec. 1969 and 1970

 Last year was the 40th Anniversary of Bitches Brew, prompting sumptuous re-issues that included a package that included a new vinyl pressing of the album and a double CD-plus-DVD set. Now add Bitches Brew Live whose contents include three previously unissued tracks from Davis’ appearance on 5 July 1969 at the Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, RI with just Davis, Corea, Holland and DeJohnette and Davis and the complete performance at the Isle of Wight in 1970.

The Newport tracks include – according to the liner notes – “the first professionally recorded live version of ‘Miles Runs the Voodoo Down’ (there are lo-fi audience recordings of the tune from clubs in New York during May and June 1969) and the first known recording of the revamped electric version of ‘Sanctuary’.” The remaining six tracks are from Davis’ 29 August 1970 appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival. These have previously been issued (and reissued) – the first time was in heavily edited form (some 17 minutes only) on the vinyl The First Great Rock Festivals of the Seventies: Isle of Wight/Atlanta Pop Festival released in August 1971.

The first official release of the complete concert (this album is the second) was as a part of Miles Davis: The Complete Columbia Album Collection which was released in November 2009. Davis’ Isle of Wight Festival performance had also previously appeared on the superb DVD Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue which included the full 38-minute concert in both vision and sound. That said, this is essential Miles Davis, more so than the studio Bitches Brew since live performance provides jazz’s most vivid life studies. At the Isle of Wight the band was on fire – Corea and Jarrett were going for it, Bartz probably never played better on record than he did here, DeJohnette is at his imperious best and Davis is wholly in the moment – his playing on ‘Directions’ and ‘It’s About That Time’ riveting. With the possible exception of the Jack Johnson track ‘Right Off’ this is the best representation of Miles Davis’ electric period.

- Stuart Nicholson
 

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