MILES DAVIS — Dark Magus: Live at Carnegie Hall

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MILES DAVIS - Dark Magus: Live at Carnegie Hall cover
4.51 | 26 ratings | 2 reviews
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Live album · 1977

Filed under Fusion


A Dark Magus - Moja 25:24
B Dark Magus - Wili 25:08
C Dark Magus - Tatu 25:20
D Dark Magus - Nne 25:32


-Miles Davis / trumpet, organ
-Dave Liebman / flute, soprano sax, tenor sax
-Azar Lawrence / tenor sax
-Reggie Lucas / guitar
-Pete Cosey / guitar
-Dominique Gaumont / guitar
-Michael Henderson / electric bass
-Al Foster / drums
-Mtume / percussion

About this release

CBS/Sony ‎– 40AP 741~2(Japan)

Re-released on CD by CBS / Sony (Japan,1985)

Recorded live at Carnegie Hall, NYC, March 30, 1974

Thanks to snobb, M.Neumann for the updates


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The first time I heard this album I was really surprised when I heard drummer Al Foster break into a hardcore proto-thrash beat, is this the Miles Davis punk rock album? Maybe so, at least this is the album where Miles writes out his old jazz credentials with a razor blade onto a jagged piece of metal, crumples it up and stuffs it down the throat of every critic who tried to tell him who he is and what kind of music he should play. If the jazz establishment thought Bitches Brew was tough, nothing could prepare them for this sonic onslaught. The best way to describe this album is equal parts Iggy Pop, Sun Ra, John Zorn, Stockhausen, MC5, Hendrix, Velvet Underground with John Cale and live King Crimson improvs.

I have always thought that Miles was heavily influenced by the early 70s Detroit rock scene during this phase of his career. The Detroit scene was particularly rough, as well as creative and featured bands like Iggy Pop and the Stooges, The MC5 and Funkadelic, long before Funkadelic gave up their psychedelic hard-rock roots to become a funk/dance band. These bands mixed hard proto-punk beats with bluesy funk and avant-garde noise and were light years ahead of many other American rock bands as far as the future of rock was concerned.

Creative noisy hard rock is hardly the only influence on here. Dark Magus is similar to other 70s recordings by Miles in that he often breaks the beat down into free sections that are sometimes loud and busy, and other times quiet and ominous. These sections always show the usual Stockhausen and Sun Ra influences, but the difference on this record is that Miles has a bigger band and the sound collages are more dense and interesting. Some of the best moments happen when Mtume holds a cheap 70s drum machine up to the microphone and creates humanly impossible dense layers of rhythms while the other band members add electronic sounds and incidental percussion. There are some saxophone led hard funk-rock jams occaisonally, but these sections sound more like Crimson's Earthbound album or Band of Gypsys than 70s party music.

The star of this show is the incendiary avant-psychedelic guitar shaman Pete Cosey. Robert Fripp has referred to Cosey's guitar playing as 'wall paper shredding' and probably Fripp, and/or McLaughlin are the only guitarists I can think of that could possibly match this man's sonic outbursts. This isn't my personal favorite Miles album, but this is probably his best when it comes to sheer hardcore rock onslaught.
Along with "Agharta" and "Pangaea" (both recorded in Japan the following year), this is one of three separate but indispensable two-disc sets of live Miles Davis, released at the height of his avant-rock electronic period in the middle 1970s. All three share an uncompromising commitment to the primal nature of pure rhythm, and together form a monolithic trilogy of loud, hypnotic Funk-Rock fusion, with some of the most ground-breaking (and ground-shaking) music ever played in front of what must have then been an unsuspecting but very lucky audience, in this case at Carnegie Hall on March 30, 1974.

Of the three albums, "Dark Magus" is the more vitally alive, and the most powerful by several ergs of unrestrained energy. It was later named one of the 50 heaviest albums of all time, according to a Q- Magazine poll in July of 2001 (King Crimson's "Red" made the same list, which shows exactly how far Davis had progressed from his acoustic cool jazz roots).

How heavy is it? Consider the line-up onstage that evening: three horn players, led by arguably the most influential musician of the 20th century; a three-piece rhythm section, often loud enough to clear your sinuses and tight enough to... (insert metaphor of choice here); and finally three (count 'em!) electric guitarists, including the formidable Pete Cosey, whose ferocity of technique would have likely made even Hendrix sit up and blink.

That's a total of nine players, performing 101-minutes of unscripted, unrehearsed, balls-to-the-walls music, most of it without even a hint of conventional melody or harmony to sustain it. The mayhem they create is truly awesome to hear: the musical equivalent of a marauding stampede of wild jungle beasts. Listen to the demonic energy of "Moja (Part One)" for proof: these guys left no prisoners in their wake.

But it's on "Wili" and "Tatu" when the strutting Funk-Rock beast finally breaks out of its cage (the track titles are merely Swahili translations of the numbers one through four: Davis never cared much for pinning names on his music). Monster rhythms (courtesy of bassist Michael Henderson and drummer Al Foster), reverb-heavy guitars, and yearning horns all collide in a unique (and very loud) form of musical osmosis, with the angry, distorted whine of Davis' trumpet setting the pace, often sounding not unlike yet another over-amped electric guitar.

Raw stuff indeed, from beginning to end. A more refined (but no less intense) variation of the same formula would surface the next year on "Agharta" and "Pangaea", just before Davis disappeared off the public map for half a decade. But it was around the time of this Carnegie Hall gig when the erstwhile jazz innovator turned his back irrevocably on the past, and really flexed his rock 'n' roll muscles.

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