November 18, 2015

Miles Davis - Black Beauty: At The Fillmore West (1970)


I'm not the biggest fusion or jazz-funk fan, but god damn Miles was just unstoppable during this period. Years ago when I was just getting into more music, I had my mind blown upon hearing Bitches Brew. Like, my brain just didn't have the surface area to even comprehend greatness on that level. I'm still suspended in disbelief that the music on Bitches Brew (or even on the simpler In A Silent Way) was made by humans, human instruments, with no overdubs or drastic engineering manipulation.

What's more incredible is the fact that the Fillmore East and West dates, the Live In Europe 1969 bootleg/compilation, and Live-Evil album hold up without a studio advantage, especially with the delicate style of fusion they were playing. These recordings might not be the divine, futuristic extraterrestrial sounds of Bitches Brew, but their dark, glowing grooves still glimmer on in their rawest form. Black Beauty in particular has a more subtle start than the opening pulses of Live-Evil, but inescapable grooves sneak their way in before you know it. Chick Corea might be the next best fusion keyboardist after Herbie, even edging out greats like Larry Young and Joe Zawinul, if I can say so. His expert command of all the effects on his Rhodes is basically what makes the album. Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, and Steve Grossman have their names deeply etched into fusion history for their more well known works (with Miles and without), but even if they weren't on any other material, they would be legends in my eyes for these performances alone. Miles' playing is exactly what he lays down on In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew; short pulses, wails, and pangs that slowly stir the glistening psilocibin stew.

This is a fantastic live fusion date from Miles and--in my opinion--ranks very close to the level of the genre defining classic, Live-Evil. A must-have for any fan of Bitches Brew (which is everybody). Also, this is the 90s remaster/reissue that is split into actual songs, not just sides, if that makes any difference to you.

Sample

Black Beauty