The Tokyo Blues – plus contest!

Miles Davis
Shinjuku Kohseinenkin Hall, Tokyo
22 January 1975, 2nd set

MD, trumpet, organ; Sonny Fortune, soprano, alto, flute; Pete Cosey, guitar, percussion; Reggie Lucas, guitar; Michael Henderson, bass; Al Foster, drums; Mtume, conga, percussion.

“People who don’t change will find themselves like folk musicians, playing in museums and local as a motherfucker.”-Miles Davis

In late January and early February 1975, the Miles Davis Septet touched down in Japan for an epochal three week tour. The official recordings from this tour — two concerts on February 1st at Osaka’s Festival Hall — were released by Columbia as Pangaea and Aghartha. They represent the last gasp of this great band and the electric period. There were some Northeast U.S. gigs in May and June ’75, but fans would have to wait until 1981 for any new Davis recordings, as Miles holed up in his New York apartment for the latter half of the 1970s, riding out the decade underground. Things wouldn’t be the same when he returned either, but that’s another story.

The music above was performed ten days before the official releases; this Tokyo concert was the tour’s first in Japan. As even a casual listen reveals, the band did not need much warming up. Scorching from the get-go, it represents the pinnacle of Miles’ fusion experiments. Greg Tate smartly summed up this group as “An entire band of improvising composers onstage creating a pan-ethnic web of avant garde music locked as dead in the pocket as P-Funk.” Word.

The rhythm section here is a monolithic sonic slab; the guitars chop up time and send it reeling; Miles showers sparks over the whole terrifying scene. For “Hip-Skip,” the pace slackens somewhat, and we’re treated to a more spacious, melodic sound. The Davis and Fortune solos are practically in the tradition, even if the locked-groove rhythms are right off the corner.

For a sense of how far Miles had come in a few years, the interested listener might want to check out the recently released Bitches Brew Live, featuring recordings from 1969 and 1970. Perhaps you’d even like to win a copy?

As we did on our Facebook page, we are pleased to be able to give away a copy of Bitches Brew Live right here to one lucky winner. Just pick a number between 1 and 100 — one guess per person only — and add it to the comments to this post by midnight EST on Sunday, 27 February. We’ll pick a number at random and identify the winner on Monday.

Incidentally, if you dig Miles ’75 in Japan, why not let the folks at Columbia/Legacy know, by voting for an official issuing of The Complete Live in Japan 1975 box. Per the Legacy page, this set is “under review.” While one wonders just how closely such a forum is monitored, it wouldn’t hurt to see that set rise up in the rankings…

Good luck and happy guessing!

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