Miles Davis: The Cellar Door Sessions

MIND BLOWING. I learned the true definition of that phrase a few days ago. Miles Davis’ LIVE-EVIL album has always been one of my favorite albums of all time, so when a version of “Inamorata” I had never heard before popped up on the hi-fi the other day I paid attention. And friends, my mind was BLOWN: I literally couldn’t focus on any task for a full 24 hours afterwards and the music still subtly saturates my consciousness days later like the background static from the Big Bang that permeates space and fascinates scientists. Upon some investigation, it turns out that the album LIVE-EVIL was indeed “recorded live,” but the finished product was actually painstakingly spliced together by Columbia sound engineers (yes – even the songs themselves) from excerpts of a four-night stand of Miles Davis and his band at a club called The Cellar Door in Washington, D.C. in 1970. In 2005, apparently while I was sleeping soundly, Columbia released the complete Cellar Door Sessions as a 6-CD box set. These original tracks feature Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, Michael Henderson, Airto Moreira, Gary Bartz and John McLaughlin in perhaps their full-blown creative fury busily creating from scratch the genre of Fusion live before our very eyes and simultaneously enchanting and enraging the public and the critics. The band is so tight, the solos so free, the sound so ground-breaking; this box set captures these legends in a moment of lucid delirium that changed music forever.

Keith Jarrett: moustached.

This is the first time Miles unleashed Keith Jarrett without Chick Corea by his side and Jarrett runs rampant all over these tracks – truly a revelation. Its also intriguing and heartening to listen to how Miles steps back and lets the others play – there are entire 10 and 15-minute spaces throughout where Miles doesn’t even play a note. If you’re a fan of LIVE-EVIL my bet is that you’ll never listen to it again after hearing these tracks – you’ll opt for the Cellar Door originals from here on out. If you’ve never heard LIVE-EVIL before or are unfamiliar with Davis’ fusion period from the 70’s, go in fearlessly – but just be sure you don’t have anything important you need to concentrate on for the next 24-48 hours afterwards. Check out some samples below, and you can buy it on Amazon here. Dig it!

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7 thoughts on “Miles Davis: The Cellar Door Sessions

  1. This is truly music from another stratosphere.

    So innovative, so revolutionary, its no wonder that most of the ‘critics” back then hated the music and accused Miles of selling out.

    Miles had more creativity & integrity in one finger than all of those critics put together.

    I would place the music from the Cellar Door Sessions along with music from that same period such as A Tribute to Jack Johnson, On The Corner, In A SIlent Way, and Bitches Brew as the ultimate creative expression of a brilliant, innovative, visionary and fearless Artist.

    That is Miles Davis.

    I love your review!!!!

    1. Thanks, brother. That truly was a magical and groundbreaking period in music, with Miles the captain of the ship! I love it all – On the Corner has a very special place in my consciousness.

      An idea to throw at you – for me the two most magical moments in creative music history – moments as opposed to periods – are Miles’ 4 night stand at the Cellar Door in 1970 and John Coltrane’s 4 nights Live at the Village Vanguard 1961. For me those box sets capture it happening in the moment, both raging fearlessly into the unknown future filled with incredible freedom, beauty and soul. So far, they’re the pinnacle for me as far as live music. Let me know your thoughts!

      As always, I appreciate the comment. Peace

  2. I totally agree.

    As far as Coltrane, I would also add Afro Blue from his Live at Birdland album. It is another magical musical moment. I get chills everytime I listen to it. It is all the things you mentioned.

    Freedom is the perfect word to describe the music.

    Freedom to explore, to create, to rage, to push past boundaries, to speak to other people’s soul through the music.

    That’s what Miles & Coltrane achieved, that is their legacy.

    That is why their music is as alive as ever.

    And always will be.

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