JJ 04/72: Miles Davis – Live/Evil

Fifty years ago Ron Brown thought the trumpeter's latest, much influenced by electronic music, was unclassifiable except by the word contemporary. First published in Jazz Journal April 1972

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Miles Davis is one of the giants of twentieth century music; there have been few musicians in jazz who’ve been able to hit on a suitable framework and remain artistically satisfying in it over the years, fewer still who’ve never stopped developing, and followed their natural curiosity to peaks of achievement in entirely different spheres – and from ‘Birth of the Cool’ through ‘Kind of Blue’ to his current output, this is what Miles has done.

It’s too simple to say that Miles is now a jazz musician playing over a rock background; there are elements of both on this album, but the source material is much richer than such a simplistic analysis would find. Contemporary electronic music has had its effect, and the whole is, I believe, genuinely unclassifiable except by that very word, contemporary.

Nobody is going to pretend that this set represents unalloyed riches of course; like the jazz from which it came, Miles’ present mode of expression is an improvised music depending on the inspiration of the moment, and he’s not always inspired, as his London audiences could have testified last November.

On the whole though, this collection has been carefully edited from a variety of live appear­ances, and the performance levels are high, with John McLaughlin excellent throughout; Keith Jarrett’s work stands out too. Miles plays wah-wah trumpet most of the time, and to hear a new Miles, in which you can still recog­nise the old Miles, emerging from the disturb­ing backgrounds on Sivad and Inamorata is a thrilling experience. Listen and see.

Discography
(a) Sivad; (b) Little Church; (c) Medley: Gemini /Double Image (25 min) – (a) What I Say; (d) Nem Um Talvez (25 min) – (d) Selim; (a) Funky Tonk (25 min) – (a) Inamorata And Narration by Conrad Roberts (27 min)
Miles Davis (tpt), with:
(a) Gary Bartz (alt/sop}; John McLaughlin (gtr); Keith Jarrett (pno); Michael Henderson (bs-gtr); Jack DeJohnette (dm): Airto Moreira (perc).
(b) Steve Grossman (sop); McLaughlin; Hermeto Pascoal (el-pno/whistling); Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea (keyboards); Dave Holland (bs); DeJohnette: Moreira.
(c) Wayne Shorter (sop); McLaughlin; Khalil Balakrlshna (sitar); Corea, Joe Zawinul (keyboard); Holland; Dejohnette, Billy Cobham (dm); Moreira.
(d) Grossman; Hancock, Jarrett, Corea (keyboards): Ron Carter (bs); DeJohnette; Moreira; Pascoal (voice).
(CBS 67219 Double Album £2.99)