Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Many People Coming From Miles Around

Keith Jarrett didn’t like playing electric instruments, so Miles made him play two at the same time. (Though Miles’ behavior is generally indefensible, Keith Jarret is a legendary pain-in-the-ass, so it’s understandable.) There was at least one foreign guy crawling around on the floor playing unpronounceable drums; in a beautiful musical irony, the guy on the floor (a Brazilian Mickey worshipped named Airto Moreira) and his drums–especially his rubbery Cuíca, which sounded like a balloon being rubbed by Mozart–were as important to the sound of this band as much as anyone else.

This particular iteration of Miles’ band didn’t last long: there were only a few months between Michael Henderson (formerly of Motown) replacing the more traditionally jazzy Dave Holland on bass and Jack De Johnette leaving to form his own band. Miles’ sound got louder, and much weirder; tablas became involved. But he never had a drummer like De Johnette ever again, not that there are a dozen people on the planet who can play the drums as well.

This short-lived band, best captured on the Cellar Door sessions, could have blown any rock band off the stage; they did, on several nights in a tiny club in Washington D.C. in December of 1970.

This is good music.


  1. Miles employed a drummer name of “Jabali Billy Hart” soon after these gigs. Seriously. Look at the credits for “On the Corner.” I think he is responsible for the dick punches, crotch horns, and cocaine hats.

  2. Miles band lineups were fluid in 70-71, different players would play different gigs, based on availability (it’s jazz). But still

    October 15-18, 1970 Fillmore West: Leon Russell/Miles Davis/Seatrain
    May 6-9, 1971 Fillmore West: Miles Davis/Elvin Bishop/Mandrill

    October shows would have been closer to the Cellar Door sound, but Michael Henderson and “Billy Hart” on board for the May FW shows.

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