Latest Monster Miles Reissue Is More of the Same, Whatever It Was


First the arithmetic: six complete sets on as many discs, recorded over four nights at a D.C. jazz club in December 1970, bits and pieces previously released in altered form on Live-Evil. Featuring Gary Bartz, Keith Jarrett, Michael Henderson, Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moreira, and John McLaughlin (last two discs only), The Cellar Door Sessions is like a companion volume to Live at the Fillmore East from the previous March—but this time it was a jazz audience that must have been wondering what the hell was going on. I remember the debate over Bitches Brew and everything that followed all too well. Not only wasn’t this what I wanted from jazz, it wasn’t what I needed from pop—songs, concision, dumb fun. Despite Henderson’s funk bass, the operating aesthetic is closer to prog—too smart for its own good, but not as smart as it wants you to think. So nothing here or on earlier Legacy releases changes my mind. But there are choice moments all the same (stratospheric Miles, roiling electric keyboard from Jarrett, consistently stimulating Bartz), and as with any previously unissued concert recording from this period, the historical appeal is undeniable. This is Miles on his way to On the Corner, Agharta, and Pangaea, and never coming back.

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