May 19, 2024

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CD review: Vault Package #56: ‘Miles Davis – Fearless’ – 2023: Video, CD cover

Third Man Records announces Vault Package #56, Miles Davis – Fearless. The main feature of the package is a recording of Davis and his band (Wayne Shorter on tenor and soprano saxophones, Chick Corea on electric piano, Dave Holland on bass, Jack De Johnette on drums and Airto Moriera on percussion) opening for Neil Young & Crazy Horse and The Steve Miller Band across two shows on March 7, 1970, presented across 3x colored LPs with an F-side etching. The package also features a 7″ of Muriel Grossmann’s Muriel Grossmann Plays Miles, in addition to a custom bumper sticker and Miles Davis patch. Find the full track listing below.

1970 serves as a tectonic shift within the crossroads of American popular music. With rock and roll on the cusp of dive bombing into its arena-era, the more adventurous and esoteric off-shoots tended to be whisked away from the spotlight while oppressive corporate behemoths drooled at the opportunity to rule labels, touring, publicity and all of their ancillary business interests with an iron fist.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, jazz music sat wondering what in the hell had happened. Long serving as the preferred genre of with-it thinkers, beatniks, poets and premier countercultural aesthetes, jazz had largely and unceremoniously been relegated to “old people’s music” as the burgeoning youth movement loomed large over creative and artistic hegemony.

Plumb right in the middle of the intersection of these diametrically opposed realms was Miles Davis.

He was already a generational genius three times over for his contributions to the American musical canon, from the cool jazz cornerstone Birth Of The Cool, to his modal jazz masterpiece Kind Of Blue and through his groundbreaking work ushering in the post-bop era with his second quintet. Davis’s fourth reinvention of popular music would come via his marriage between rock and jazz. Fusion.

With In A Silent Way in 1969, Davis made his first dedicated work in the realm. Shortly thereafter, Davis would record his genre-defining, stand-alone fusion colossus Bitches Brew. And a mere three weeks before the release of Brew, Miles undertook the first of five multi-night residencies across Bill Graham’s esteemed Fillmore East/West venues.

Featuring Davis on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor and soprano saxophones, Chick Corea on electric piano, Dave Holland on bass, Jack De Johnette on drums and Airto Moriera on percussion, the two performances (early/late) opening for Neil Young & Crazy Horse and the Steve Miller Band from March 7th, 1970 go hard.

Arguably finding more in common with the Stooges soon-to-be released triumph Fun House than anything else adjacent in the jazz realm, this sextet runs the floor with an intensity and ferocity that still leaves listeners gasping for air over five decades later.

Highlighting three tracks featured on Brew coupled with the live debut of the thrilling “Willie Nelson” (tracked in the studio mere weeks earlier) the songs here brim with rapturous transcendence. Of particular interest this evening is Corea’s introduction of the wah-wah pedal to the band’s arsenal (a tool soon to be employed by the entirety of the band) and the outright incendiary solos from Shorter, his improvisation on the closing “Spanish Key” and “It’s About That Time / Willie Nelson” serving as a fitting swan song to culminate an impressive and groundbreaking six year span in Davis’s band.

Never before available on vinyl, these recordings, newly titled Fearless, comprise the heart of the 56th installment in Third Man Records Vault subscription service.

Pressed on three vibrant colored 180-gram vinyl LPs, the pink, maroon and red discs are alive with presence. With an exclusive graphic etching on side 6, these records are truly a sight to behold. Housed in a sumptuous tri-fold jacket featuring moody of-the-era pix, the overall package is an unqualified gem.

To connect Miles Davis’s monumental oeuvre to how he is still influencing jazz to this day, Third Man enlisted the venerable Austrian saxophonist Muriel Grossmann. Having impressed discerning ears the world over from her home base of Ibiza, Grossmann’s reverential yet forward approach to spiritual jazz has earned her respect and praise for her prodigious and unflagging output. Muriel Grossmann Plays Miles features covers of the quintessential classics “Go Ahead John”, “In A Silent Way” and “Miles Runs The Voodoo Down” that abound with crisp precision and expressive abandon.

Pressed on a 7-inch single and living in a custom printed die-cut sleeve, Muriel Grossmann Plays Miles fits perfectly visually, stylistically and inspirationally with the Fillmore recordings.And to trick the whole thing out with some snappy extras, we’ve got a luxe Miles Davis Fearless patch, all iconic as hell, coupled with a bumper sticker clever enough to impress the deep heads while still looking classy on your ride. The sticker design will be revealed in good time as the finer things in life come to those who wait.

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