Along with its sister recording, Pangaea, Agharta was recorded live in February of 1975 at the Osaka Festival Hall in Japan. Amazingly enough, given that these are arguably Davis' two greatest electric live records, they were recorded the same day. Agharta was performed in the afternoon and Pangaea in the evening. Of the two, Agharta is superior. The band with Davis -- saxophonist Sonny Fortune, guitarists Pete Cosey (lead) and Reggie Lucas (rhythm), bassist Michael Henderson, drummer Al Foster, and percussionist James Mtume -- was a group who had their roots in the radically streetwise music recorded on 1972's On the Corner, and they are brought to fruition here. The music on Agharta, a total of three tunes spread over two CDs and four LP sides, contains the "Prelude," which clocks in at over a half-hour. There is "Maiysha" from Get up With It and the Agharta "Interlude," which segues into the "Theme From Jack Johnson." The music here is almost totally devoid of melody and harmony, and is steeped into a steamy amalgam of riffs shot through and through with crossing polyrhythms, creating a deep voodoo funk groove for the soloists to inhabit for long periods of time as they solo and interact with one another. Davis' band leading at this time was never more exacting or free. The sense of dynamics created by the stop-start accents and the moods, textures, and colors brought out by this particular interaction of musicians is unparalleled in Davis' live work -- yeah, that includes the Coltrane and Bill Evans bands, but they're like apples and oranges anyway. Driven by the combination of Davis' direction and the soloing of Sonny Fortune and guitarist Pete Cosey, who is as undervalued and underappreciated for his incalculable guitar-slinging gifts as Jimi Hendrix is celebrated for his, and the percussion mania of Mtume, the performance on Agharta is literally almost too much of a good thing to bear. When Cosey starts his solo in the "Prelude" at the 12-minute mark, listeners cannot be prepared for the Hendrixian energy and pure electric whammy-bar weirdness that's about to come splintering out of the speakers. As the band reacts in intensity, the entire proceeding threatens to short out the stereo. These are some of the most screaming notes ever recorded. Luckily, since this is just the first track on the whole package, Davis can bring the tempos down a bit here and there and snake them into spots that I don't think even he anticipated before that afternoon (check the middle of "Maiysha" and the second third of "Jack Johnson" for some truly creepy and beautiful wonders). While Pangaea is awesome as well, there is simply nothing like Agharta in the canon of recorded music. This is the greatest electric funk-rock jazz record ever made -- period.
Performance CreditsMiles Davis Primary Artist,Organ,Trumpet
Sonny Fortune Flute,Alto Saxophone,Soprano Saxophone
Reggie Lucas Guitar
Pete Cosey Synthesizer,Guitar,Percussion
Michael Henderson Bass,Guitar,Bass Guitar
James Mtume Percussion,Conga,Rhythm Box,Water Drums
Technical CreditsDavid Lanz Composer
Chip Davis Composer
Michael Berniker Producer
Teo Macero Executive Producer
Tamoo Suzuki Engineer
Lee Jeske Liner Notes
John Berg Cover Design
Elena Pavlov Cover Art
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
After listening to both Agharta and Pangaea, I feel this is definitely the better of the two concerts. The band plays a lot more rhythm and melody on this set and the guitarists are allowed to step out and show their chops. Don't expect to hear much of Davis on trumpet. According to the notes he uses a wah-wah device part of the time and plays organ at some points in the concerts.. Frankly, some of the odd sounds on both sets are hard to match to specific instruments. These two sets are worth checking out as long as you aren't planning on hearing either pure rock or jazz.
i cannot reccommend this highly enough. as a set piece with pangea, this is the (imho)best live jazz recording in the 20th century. bold,daring,loud and totally fearless. this is the earlier part of a jazz concert miles did in japan. it was an all day affair. if you only listen to 1 part(pangea or agharta) you won't get the entire effect of what was done. i have listened to this record for over 10 years and every time i hear something new ,fresh and exciting.
AGHARTA is certainly Miles Davis' finest hour, his most intense moment. But if you hear the original LP you'll see that this music is infinitely more radical and WILD than it sounds now, on this LOUSY CD MIX. Columbia SANITIZED this recording on CD: it now sounds utterly FLAT!! I JUST WISHED BILL LASWELL HAD A CHACE TO RE-MIX THIS POWERFUL RECORDING. CHECK THE ORIGINAL LP: Reggie Lucas and Pete Cozey are upfront, menacing; Michael Henderson's bass is EXTREME, and Miles opens up a river of shining light-sound. To make a long story short: transfer the LP to a recordable CD, and then you'll be able to hear the AUTHENTIC AGHARTA!!