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Electrifying: Miles Davis at the Cellar Door

Miles Davis electricIn December of 1970 Miles Davis took what some consider to be his last great quintet into a Washington, D.C. jazz club for a four-night stand. Columbia Records recorded all four evenings, but until recently, only material from the last night, when guitarist John McLaughlin joined the group, had been released (and then in edited form) on the album Live/Evil. Now a 6-CD compilation of the Cellar Door performances has come out, giving listeners a comprehensive portrait of this particular Miles ensemble in all its rock and funk-influenced glory. In his book Miles Beyond, Paul Tingen describes the band as denser, more aggressive, louder, and funkier than previous Davis electric groups. Musicians included Keith Jarrett on both electric piano and organ, Gary Bartz on alto and soprano saxophones, Michael Henderson (a 19-year-old who’d played with Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin) on bass, and Jack Dejohnette on drums. They were joined at the Cellar Door by percussionist Airto Moreira. We’ll hear Joe Zawinul’s composition “Directions,” as well as Davis compositions such as “What I Say,” “Inamorata,” and “It’s About That Time.”

You can also check out our previous show on Miles Davis’ electric era, Miles Davis: the Jack Johnson Sessions.

Music Heard On This Episode

Honky Tonk (excerpt)
Miles Davis — Cellar Door Sessions 1970 (Columbia/Legacy, 1970)
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Honky Tonk (excerpt)
Miles Davis — Cellar Door Sessions 1970 (Columbia/Legacy, 1970)

Notes: Friday, Dec. 18 (second set)

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What I Say
Miles Davis — Cellar Door Sessions 1970 (Columbia/Legacy, 1970)

Notes: Thursday night (second set)

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It's About That Time
Miles Davis — Cellar Door Sessions 1970 (Columbia/Legacy, 1970)

Notes: Saturday night, third set

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Sanctuary
Miles Davis — Cellar Door Sessions 1970 (Columbia/Legacy, 1970)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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Directions
Miles Davis — Cellar Door Sessions 1970 (Columbia/Legacy, 1970)

Notes: Friday night (third set)

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album cover
Inamorata
Miles Davis — Cellar Door Sessions 1970 (Columbia/Legacy, 1970)

Notes: Thursday night (second set)

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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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