Miles DAVIS – The Cellar Door Sessions 1970

Miles DAVIS – The Cellar Door Sessions 1970
6CD Boxset.
2005 Issue.

Jazz

Contains previously unreleased material. Some of the recordings on the CELLAR DOOR SESSIONS were originally released in edited form on the 1971 double-LP LIVE EVIL.

There is an entire universe contained in this box. Sumptuously packaged and scrupulously annotated, CELLAR DOOR SESSIONS 1970 is a six-disc set that documents Miles Davis’s extended residency at the Washington, D.C., club. Davis is backed by a group of genius musicians: keyboardist Keith Jarrett, drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist Michael Henderson, saxophonist Gary Bartz, percussionist Airto Moreira and guitarist John McLaughlin (who appears only on the last two discs). Together they pioneered an ecstatic fusion of jazz, rock, funk, and abstract sound-painting that established the blueprint for the future of progressive music.

Each disc contains a different live set, and while songs are often repeated across the set lists, no two tracks sound the same. The players improvise at a fever-pitch, pushing themselves to endless invention, and the ensemble’s interplay–expressionistic, protean, and fierce–is near telepathic. The influence of rock artists like Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix can be heard in the layering of deep funk rhythms and psychedelic inflections (especially with Miles’s wah-filtered trumpet), but the overall sound seems to subsume and transcend the entire history of 20th century music. In a career full of musical innovation, this is some of Miles’s most visionary work, and this essential set (which also boasts splendid remastering) documents it for a near-religious listening experience.
**
If you own Live-Evil, you have something good. But if you like Live-Evil this is even better. And you should not hesitate if you’re on the fence. Do not make the mistake of thinking you will just hear extended takes of Live-Evil material  it’s more than that. For all the hype these sessions have generated over the years, I did not expect this to be as good as it was. And yet it exceeded my expectations by Disc One and just got better from there.

To my ears, this is perhaps the last truly great quintet that Miles would lead. There would be other great Miles music after this, but this band deserves the kudos that have been given what has been referred to as the “lost” quintet that preceded it (Shorter/Corea/Holland/DeJohnette). And it’s one of the best representations I can think of that successfully bridges jazz, rock and fusion. it’s also the band I’d recommend to anyone who mistakenly believes Miles was “done” and/or “sold out” when he turned electric.

I don’t know if it’s in the mix or in the take, but Michael Henderson sounds better here than he does on Live-Evil. There are solos by Gary Bartz that will blow you away. Keith Jarrett proves that he could have been a demon of fusion, had he chosen that path. Jack DeJohnette never errs. And Miles turns up the heat and keeps it there throughout.

I will probably never play Live-Evil again, now that I have this and the little Hermeto gems that were included with the Jack Johnson box set. Although I agree with the reviewer who appreciated the difficult task it must have been to construct Live-Evil from these wonderful sessions. I have to wonder, in retrospect, if they chose the sessions with McLaughlin on guitar for Live Evil partly as a marketing strategy — since McLaughlin was also a rising star at the time. And although the sessions with McLaughlin are excellent, they’re not my favorites  the band sounds tighter, more cohesive, with the quintet.

Listen to this band. You will not be bored. You will be amazed.
By  Dean Monti
**
There is an entire universe contained in this box. Sumptuously packaged and scrupulously annotated, CELLAR DOOR SESSIONS 1970 is a six-disc set that documents Miles Davis’s extended residency at the Washington, D.C., club. Davis is backed by a group of genius musicians: keyboardist Keith Jarrett, drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist Michael Henderson, saxophonist Gary Bartz, percussionist Airto Moreira and guitarist John McLaughlin (who appears only on the last two discs). Together they pioneered an ecstatic fusion of jazz, rock, funk, and abstract sound-painting that established the blueprint for the future of progressive music. Each disc contains a different live set, and while songs are often repeated across the set lists, no two tracks sound the same. The players improvise at a fever-pitch, pushing themselves to endless invention, and the ensemble’s interplay–expressionistic, protean, and fierce–is near telepathic. The influence of rock artists like Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix can be heard in the layering of deep funk rhythms and psychedelic inflections (especially with Miles’s wah-filtered trumpet), but the overall sound seems to subsume and transcend the entire history of 20th century music. In a career full of musical innovation, this is some of Miles’s most visionary work, and this essential set (which also boasts splendid remastering) documents it for a near-religious listening experience.
**
At the end of 1970, Miles Davis was on fire. While his band was in a constant state of turnover, it worked out because his music was in a constant state of fierce evolution. Having incorporated electric instruments and rock rhythms into his bands for the past couple years, Davis was losing the understanding of critics and to some extent his audience. With ears of a couple generations later and the recent explosion of evidence of undocumented bands, it’s possible to really reevaluate this period in Davis’ evolution.

One of the bands that was woefully underdocumented was the sextet on this album– Gary Bartz (saxes), Keith Jarrett (keyboards), Michael Henderson (bass guitar), Jack DeJohnette (drums) and Airto Moreira (percussion). Recorded in December of 1970 during a week-long stretch at Washington D.C.’s Cellar Door club, only some highly edited music from the last night (when the band was joined by guitarist John McLaughlin) was previously released (as part of “Live-Evil”). With this set, we can finally hear what this band was all about.

Generally, each set was about an hour-long continuous performance, usually opening with “Directions” and running through a handful of themes during the course of the performance. The music is deeply rooted in groove and funk– this is no doubt the influence of Michael Henderson, who had a Motown pedigree, but also of Davis’ infatuation with the music of Jimi Hendrix. This placed the rhythm section in a fairly unusual position– Henderson would lay down a vamp (albeit a bit looser than he would a couple years later) that would form the core of the piece while DeJohnette and Moreira would set up a percussive stew using rock and funk grooves but firmly rooted in jazz and Brazillian music (I don’t really know how to describe it– it feels like, but doesn’t sound like, a rock groove when DeJohnette plays). But it’s Keith Jarrett’s performances that are the revelation. Notorious for his hatred of electric instruments (more on that below), Jarrett performs on two keyboards simultaneoulsy, eliciting an oddly associative performance. Henderson indicates in his liner notes that Davis instructed him to ignore what Jarrett is doing– it’s pretty clear this is the case, but somehow it all fits together. But perhaps most remarkable is that Jarrett’s performances don’t really change when a soloist is above him. As far as the soloing goes, Bartz is firmly rooted in a modal/proto-free jazz school, playing angular and excitable Coltrane-influenced solos, but Davis is stunning. Inspired no doubt by the energy and volume of the music, Davis explores his upper register and his technique, playing with a fire and fierceness that seems to shed his label as a delicate and romantic player.

On the last night, the presence of John McLaughlin makes all the difference– the music gets a looser quality and Davis seems even further inspired– indeed, it seems that much of Davis’ best playing was done with McLaughlin at his side. This goes from being a tight, frantic electric rock band to something even more.

Sonically, it sounds fantastic– its definitely a live recording, it’s got that late ’60s/early ’70s recorded-in-a-club sound to it, but it’s crisp, clear and well balanced, all the instruments are audible and presented in a good spot in the mix.

This set is packaged similar to the rest of the recent Miles Davis Columbia boxed set– a booklet-style folio contained in a slipcase, with each disc housed in its own envelope. The accompanying 96-page booklet contains essays by all of the performers and the reissue producers, Bob Belden and Adam Holzman. The producer essays are informative– Belden provides an introduction, Holzman an analysis of the music, but the musicians’ essays are of mixed quality. Some of them write rather nice, heartfelt things, but some of them seem overly concerned with agendas beyond discussing the music (although admittedly Henderson’s defense of himself and the music comes off a bit poor). Of particular note is Keith Jarrett’s rant about both electric keyboards and a rather bitter attack on Marcus Miller. find this sort of thing distracting. A final note– this set was delayed a substantial amount of time by Miles Davis’ nephew, Vince Wilburn, who has partial control over his estate. Evidentally, he took issue with Holzman and Belden being credited as reissue producers and demanded they be changed to reissue compilers. My set has a sticker over the production credits to this effect, I actually can’t believe the set was delayed for several months for something this trivial.

In the end, this is a fantastic set– it’s not quite the “Holy Grail of Lost Recordings” or the “Music That Will Change the Course of Everything” it’s being lauded as by overenthusiastic fans, but it’s awful good music and well worth the investment for any fan of Davis’ work. Highly recommended.
By Michael Stack.
**
Directed By [Miles Davis Series Direction]- Seth Rothstein , Steve Berkowitz
Drums- Jack DeJohnette
Electric Bass- Michael Henderson
Fender Rhodes Piano, Electric Organ- Keith Jarrett
Guitar- John McLaughlin (tracks: 5-1 to 6-5)
Percussion- Airto Moreira (tracks: 2-1 to 6-5)
Soprano & Alto Sax- Gary Bartz
Trumpet- Miles Davis
**
Disc 1:
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16 (1ST SET):
01. Directions 8:57
02. Yesternow 17:05
03. What I Say 13:10
04. Improvisation #1) 4:31
05. Inamorata 13:59

Disc 2:
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17 (2ND SET):
01. What I Say 13:35
02. Honky Tonk 19:59
03. It’s About That Time 14:41
04. Improvisation #2) 6:39
05. Inamorata 14:33
06. Sanctuary 0:30

Disc 3:
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 18 (2ND SET):
01. Directions 13:13
02. Honky Tonk 18:31
03. What I Say 15:09

Disc 4:
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 18 (3RD SET):
01. Directions 11:55
02. Honky Tonk 17:00
03. What I Say 14:12
04. Sanctuary 2:03
05. Improvisation #3 5:04
06. Inamorata 15:14

Disc 5:
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 19 (2ND SET):
01. Directions 15:11
02. Honky Tonk 20:49
03. What I Say 21:31

Disc 6:
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 19 (3RD SET):
01. Directions 19:06
02. Improvisation #4 5:03
03. Inamorata 18:27
04. Sanctuary 2:12
05. It’s About That Time 7:49
**


NoPassword
*
MUDLinks
*
1 2 3 4
*
FFDLink
*
a b c d
*
Please Donate

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: