The Cellar Door Sessions 1970

The Cellar Door Sessions 1970

by Miles Davis



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.

Product Details

Release Date: 12/20/2005
Label: Sony
UPC: 0827969361429
catalogNumber: 93614

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
Seth Rothstein   Art Direction
Howard Fritzson   Art Direction
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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The Cellar Door Sessions 1970 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago