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Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett, 1971.   Part Two

Once Keith Jarrett had left, so had, essentially, all of the true ‘stars’ of Miles Davis’s great configurations of the’ jazz/rock’ era, those who went on to carve out soon-come significance: John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul/Wayne Shorter, Larry Young/Tony Williams, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack de Johnette. Even Bennie Maupin and Dave Liebeman. Even, at a stretch, Don Alias and Mtume.  So many in so short a period.

Perfectly good musician improvisers like Steve Grossman and Gary Bartz seemed ‘weak’ in such company, let alone later players like guitarist Mike Stern and saxophonist Bill Evans, all of whom failed to capture the popular imagination, even receiving some opprobrium in certain critical circles for not matching up to the likes of Trane and the keyboard Bill Evans. It does make one wonder though - whether the likes of Evans and Coltrane would have considered themselves worthy of joint billing with Miles Davis? It seemed, by the time of the Oslo concert, whether Keith Jarrett had actually reached that degree of perceived hubris? Certainly, the histrionic shape-throwing on view in the Oslo film could make one conclude that Jarrett had sought the limelight within his boss’s gig, especially towards its ending. After Gary Bartz’s solo (40-45 minutes in), Jarrett’s gutbucket grandstanding (with accompanying facial rictus and head-flat down - on- keys posturing) seems to prompt Miles to cut it all off in a somewhat savage, throat-cutting, caesura. (Miles was always prone to these sorts of ‘cuts’, however, so one should not read tooooo much into this instance of same.) There is even the danger of Jarrett upstaging Miles at this time, as the Cellar Door Sessions also indicate, so it comes as no surprise that he jumped ship in early 1972, on to an almost unparalleled career of solo achievement on the acoustic piano. Miles moved on, in turn, to his later percussion-heavy work, ‘jazz/funk’ rather than ‘jazz/rock’, in the company of, initially James Brown and Sly Stone and, later on, Kool & the Gang, Earth, Wind & Fire, Funkadelic/Parliament, The Ohio Players, The Crusaders and even, Saturn save us, Sun Ra & his Arkestra (Disco 3000, Languidity). They were all at the funk rock face in the 1970s.

Meanwhile, for a relatively short period (1970-72?), Keith Jarrett was exploring, despite his considerable reservations, electronic keyboards. He leaves The Cellar Door Sessions as significant proof of what he could achieve within this format, as well as on these Oslo recordings. His vinyl double album Expectations (1972, Columbia Records) should be listened to in this respect, as well as his idiosyncratic duo with De Johnette, Ruta + Daitya, an early ECM Records curiosity. There is, however, nothing like the sheer intensity of his work with Miles at this same period, a reflection, I am sure, of the trumpeter’s particular genius, of getting something special out of his band members?

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The banner picture is by the late Mal Dean (1941-1974), which featured on the cover of the 1972 Incus Records vinyl release, Live Performances at Verity's Place, by two free improvisation pioneers, the English guitarist Derek Bailey and Dutch percussionist Han Bennink.