The Cellar Door Sessions 1970

( 2 )

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ted Panken
Recorded over four nights in December 1970 at a small Washington, D.C., nightclub, The Cellar Door Sessions is a vivid document of a heretofore unrepresented Miles Davis unit, with which the trumpeter grabbed the close-to-the-beat sound of such contemporary rockers as Cream and Jimi Hendrix and focused his imaginative powers to sculpt it in his own manner. Each of the six disks represents a set, and the first four contain never-released material from nights one through three. These feature Gary Bartz on alto and soprano saxophones, Keith Jarrett on Fender Rodes and Fender electric organ, Michael Henderson on electric bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums, and percussionist ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ted Panken
Recorded over four nights in December 1970 at a small Washington, D.C., nightclub, The Cellar Door Sessions is a vivid document of a heretofore unrepresented Miles Davis unit, with which the trumpeter grabbed the close-to-the-beat sound of such contemporary rockers as Cream and Jimi Hendrix and focused his imaginative powers to sculpt it in his own manner. Each of the six disks represents a set, and the first four contain never-released material from nights one through three. These feature Gary Bartz on alto and soprano saxophones, Keith Jarrett on Fender Rodes and Fender electric organ, Michael Henderson on electric bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums, and percussionist Airto Moreira, who adds texture to the proceedings from night two on (Discs 2-6). The tracks with guitar legend John McLaughlin (discs 5-6), who joined the band on the final evening, are well known from the contemporaneous double album Live/Evil.

This band never recorded in a studio, and devotees of the plugged-in Miles will take particular interest in the dynamic ebb and flow as the ensemble work out a point of view on Discs 1-4. The music on these 20 tracks is fresh and devoid of cliché; no rock band of the time -- or since -- could think on their feet like this, balancing raw energy, intelligence, and unfettered imagination. On successive performances of songs like “Inamorata,” “Directions,” “What'd I Say,” and “Honky Tonk,” the ideas are focused -- and different each night. No one plays to the house, and all members are on the same page. The music isn’t meditatively trippy, like Bitches Brew; rather, the feel is more like a psychedelic juke-joint, imbued with blues feeling, deep grooves, and heavy pockets. It’s a singular, short-lived moment on the jazz timeline.

It would be hard to overstate the impact of Jarrett’s playing on the first three nights. For one thing, he comps with uncanny intuition and sensitivity, often doubling lines instantaneously. He conjures lyric sequences, strikes the keys with drum-like force, and plays with sound like a mad scientist, at one moment evoking guitar skronk, at another paralleling the leader’s wah-wah-suffused trumpet tone. Davis sets the template with a series of lucid solos, also guitar-accented, on which he deploys a minimum of notes and a maximum of inflection. In contrast, Bartz unleashes a succession of notey, blues-fueled declamations with a Coltrane cry. Henderson constructs resonant vamps, synchronizing with DeJohnette: As Henderson constructs butt-shaking long form vamps, DeJohnette is on top of the flow, driving the pulse with a locked-in machine-gun shuffle, breaking the rhythms to leave space as the solos progress, and sound-painting with rubato nuance on free-improvised collective interludes. When McLaughlin hits the stand on night four, he susses out the situation, finds his space, and plays with virtuosic flair, logic, and ensemble orientation. It’s interesting to hear Jarrett tamp down the timbral fireworks and uncork melodic, rhythmically dazzling solos in response to the guitar giant.

As always with Sony-Legacy productions, audio values are first rate: The crisp 24-bit digital remix allows you to hear every instrument in relation to the others. The booklet offers essays from each participant and lots of photos that evoke the milieu of 1970, when everything seemed possible -- and, more often than not, was.

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
When Miles Davis released Live-Evil in 1970, fans were immediately either taken aback or keenly attracted to its raw abstraction. It was intense and meandering at the same time; it was angular, edgy, and full of sharp teeth and open spaces that were never resolved. Listening to the last two CDs of The Cellar Door Sessions 1970, Sony's massive six-disc box set that documents six of the ten dates Davis and his band recorded during their four-day engagement at the fabled club, is a revelation now. The reason: it explains much of Live-Evil's live material with John McLaughlin. These discs finally reveal the crackling energy and deep-groove conscience that Miles Davis was seeking in his electric phase. First and most startling is that John McLaughlin only appears on the final two discs. The first four discs feature a new lineup, one with Keith Jarrett who, in a first for Davis in the electric era, was the lone keyboardist after Chick Corea's departure. Airto Moreira and Jack DeJohnette are holdovers from the Live at the Fillmore East and Tribute to Jack Johnson sessions, among other concerts and sets that have appeared on many different records, from Big Fun to Get Up with It to Directions. The new players here include Gary Bartz on alto and soprano saxophone he replaced Steve Grossman, and 19-year-old bassist Michael Henderson -- fresh out of Stevie Wonder's band -- replacing Dave Holland. Davis was keen on having Columbia record his live sets, and pressured them to do so for these four nights, just a week before Christmas in 1970. This set is a solid look at what's in-the-can, since the vast majority of these tracks -- three hours' worth of them -- have never seen the light of day in any form. As Adam Holzman wonderfully states in his liner notes, this is truly the missing link between Bitches Brew and Dark Magus. This music reveals a truly muscular Miles Davis at the top of his form as an improviser and as a bandleader with the most intense and nearly mystical sense of the right place-the right time-the right lineup. These shows, played in a club instead of a concert hall, provided a virtual laboratory for possibilities Davis was exploring. The money for the gig was nearly non-existent compared to what he was used to making playing halls, so he paid the band out of his own pocket. The music here fades in with Joe Zawinul's "Directions." There is a five-note bass figure that repeats almost constantly throughout, offering DeJohnette a solid bass from which to enhance the groove and dance around. From the beginning, Davis is blowing his ass off, soloing furiously in the middle register. Jarrett is filling the space, playing both a Rhodes and an organ at the same time. When Bartz begins to solo on soprano, the deep, funky groove is well-established, giving the musicians room to dig in and let loose. Jarrett's solo is like a spaced-out Sly Stone, offering back the groove and then building on it like a man possessed. He matches both DeJohnette and Henderson with a slippery, utterly rhythmic sense of pure groove and then moves them somewhere else until Davis brings them back. Disc two opens with Jarrett, Henderson, and Airto locking horns in a ferocious groove on "What I Say" that has the members of the audience showing their appreciation with shouts of "Yeah!" and "Blow!" and "You Go!" Jarrett's solo at the beginning is unlike anything he has ever played -- before or since. As they move through the set and get to "Inamorata," the gate to heaven and hell is wide open. The spaced-out blues in "Honky Tonk" reveals Davis' total mastery of the wah wah he employed in so much of his material of the time. "Inamorata" is wildly funky, dirty, and outright nasty in places. But the middle sections offer, as Bartz notes in his liner essay, the kinds of vocalese concepts that are reflected in his solo, Davis' solo, and in the actual voices of Airto and Henderson. What happens as the band plays each night is that the sense of adventure grows, while the utter relaxation and confidence in each member is carried through to Davis who pushes the buttons and in strange, nearly wordless ways, communicates what he wants on-stage, and the other players give it to him. There are so few rough moments here where someone drops a line or doesn't quite make it; when it does happen on that rare occasion, some other member picks it up and goes with it. And DeJohnette's drumming, in his virtual mind-lock with Henderson, is some of the best playing of his career. The final surprise is when McLaughlin joins the band for the final two discs -- he came down on Saturday night after an invitation from Davis and had not rehearsed with the group at all. The first set is not here, so who knows what transpired, or how the band got comfortable with McLaughlin. But the final two sets are here, and what transpires is revelatory because one can hear what was missing on Live-Evil: melody. Teo Macero and Davis edited the melodies out for that release. The intensity begins quickly with "Directions" on disc five. Henderson is a bit tentative at first, but Jarrett eggs him on and soon enough he responds with a vengeance. Bartz carries the wave in his solo, and Airto is singing the groove in the back. McLaughlin fills the backdrop with big, ugly chordal figures until it's time for his solo, and then he simply goes for it, digging into that bassline and DeJohnette's circular groove and he just throws notes at them, gunshot-like in the cut, and then moves out enough to carry it all somewhere else. "Honky Tonk" meanders a bit, but when "What I Say" shows up it's all aggression, hard-edged dare, and daunt. It's almost a challenge to the audience because the playing is so fast and raw. Ultimately, on disc six, recorded in the third set later that evening, again it's "Directions" that gets the nod, but this time, in spite of the trance-like bassline in the tune and Davis' driving, whirlwind playing, Jarrett gets it spacey, sinister, dark, and strange. Bartz's solo comes from the blues and is in stark contrast to Davis', but when McLaughlin takes his cue, it's all knots and folds, razor-sharp and driven, torn between fun and free improvisation. The tension is killer; Bartz's storm of grace and rage in his solo, coming immediately before, throws McLaughlin off for a bit at the beginning of his own solo on "Inamorata," but he finds a place to walk the razor's edge and does just that. The box closes with a fine, freaky version of "It's About That Time," where Bartz goes back to the blues and Davis sinks into the melody of the tune and quiets everything to a hush, slowing it way, way down to a whispering finish. The Cellar Door Sessions set is like a combination of the Tribute to Jack Johnson set and the complete It's About That Time disc, with a watershed of information providing a complete bridge from one phase of that exploratory period in Davis' career to another. As Jarrett observes in his liner essay each bandmember has one after this date, Davis never played with a group as musically sophisticated again. And for all the ego displayed in stating this, one may tend to agree with him. Lavishly packaged and annotated, The Cellar Door Sessions is the last great reissue of the year 2005, and an essential testament to the genius Davis displayed in weaving together exploratory jazz, funk, and rock.
Rolling Stone - Tom Moon
1/2 A mother lode of mind-expanding live music from 1970.... Here is Miles Davis, sonic seeker, sending desolate streaks of wah-wah trumpet into the unmapped ethos.

1/2 A mother lode of mind-expanding live music from 1970.... Here is Miles Davis, sonic seeker, sending desolate streaks of wah-wah trumpet into the unmapped ethos.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 12/20/2005
  • Label: Sony
  • UPC: 827969361429
  • Catalog Number: 93614

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Directions (8:55)
  2. 2 Yesternow (17:05)
  3. 3 What I Say (13:12)
  4. 4 Improvisation #1 (4:29)
  5. 5 Inamorata (13:59)
Disc 2
  1. 1 What I Say (13:33)
  2. 2 Honky Tonk (19:59)
  3. 3 It's About That Time (14:41)
  4. 4 Improvisation #2 (6:39)
  5. 5 Inamorata (14:33)
  6. 6 Sanctuary (0:30)
Disc 3
  1. 1 Directions (13:11)
  2. 2 Honky Tonk (18:31)
  3. 3 What I Say (15:09)
Disc 4
  1. 1 Directions (11:53)
  2. 2 Honky Tonk (17:00)
  3. 3 What I Say (14:12)
  4. 4 Sanctuary (2:03)
  5. 5 Improvisation #3 (5:04)
  6. 6 Inamorata (15:14)
Disc 5
  1. 1 Directions (15:09)
  2. 2 Honky Tonk (20:49)
  3. 3 What I Say (21:31)
Disc 6
  1. 1 Directions (19:04)
  2. 2 Improvisation #4 (5:03)
  3. 3 Inamorata (18:27)
  4. 4 Sanctuary (2:12)
  5. 5 It's About That Time (7:49)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Miles Davis Primary Artist, Trumpet
Gary Bartz Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone
Jack DeJohnette Drums
Keith Jarrett fender rhodes
John McLaughlin Guitar, Electric Guitar
Airto Moreira Percussion
Michael Henderson Bass Guitar
Michael J. Henderson Electric Bass
Technical Credits
Gary Bartz Liner Notes
Bob Belden Introduction
Miles Davis Composer
Jack DeJohnette Liner Notes
Keith Jarrett Composer, Liner Notes
John McLaughlin Liner Notes
Wayne Shorter Composer
Airto Moreira Liner Notes
Adam Holzman Liner Notes
Joe Zawinul Composer
Teo Macero Producer
Mark Wilder Mastering
Seth Rothstein Art Direction
Howard Fritzson Art Direction
Seth Foster Mastering
Michael J. Henderson Liner Notes
Dan Ichimoto Art Direction
Murray Lerner Still Pictures
Jim Marshall Cover Photo
Stanley Tonkel Producer, Engineer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    May Be The Most Unique Of The Box Sets Yet!

    Amazing music....Most of it never before heard! Keith Jarrett should have pursued a career in fusion! If you only heard this band on Live/Evil I suggest you get this set....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews