This album by the Prince of Darkness is most likely, the thickest, darkest piece of music that I own. It sounds more like Miles recorded it in Hell than Carnagie Hall, as everything is dark and dense and almost possessing an evil quality. And the band rocks pretty hard.
The concert opens in typical Miles fashion, like a mf with a song called Moja. It almost reminds me of the days when he started a show with something furious like Ah-Leu-Cha, which is on that great Miles and Coltrane live album. But if Ah-Leu-Cha takes a nod to Bird, then Moja takes it’s nod to the devil himself. Al Foster’s drums probably knocked everyone out of their seats while Miles pitted his almost screaming, electrified trumpet against an impenetrable wall of three (!) guitars. The song is wild, and rocks harder (and longer with such sustained momentum) than the heaviest rock song of the day. The dark funk starts with the second song, Wili. This slow, black, 25 minute track (split into two parts) shows off some menacing interaction between Michael Henderson’s bass, Foster’s drums, and Miles’s cryptic keyboard and finally trumpet playing. The song paints images of a giant Miles, walking slowly through Carnagie Hall, in his flowing red bellbottoms and custom made fringed canary yellow jacket picking off concert goers one by one with his short, caustic trumpet blasts. His tone might not have been fantastic, but this is a new Miles… more crazy than his earlier days, with his trumpet lines taking the shape of almost painful little shards. All the while, the three guitar attack of Pete Cosey, Reggie Lucas and Dominique Gaumont slash away with their electric axes.
Disc two begins with the sounds of Michael Hendersons HUGE, funky basslines. The dark atmosphere has not and will not leave this show. Tatu is funkier than the last, and has some more of Miles’s weird keyboard playing. Just a sustained note here or there gives enough direction and mood for the band to follow as the guitars all blare away. This song goes on for a while, kind of meanders aimlessly as the band seems to search for inspiration and direction, eventually moving into some more hardcore thumping. That leads into Nne part 1 (Ife) which also is a little slow but that leads into Nne part 2 which is out of this world. The band just lets everything loose, and it’s not even clear if Miles is still on the stage!
Overall, Dark Magus is good. Maybe not 5 stars, but certainly better than 4 in my book. It doesn’t deserve to get panned like it so often does. A lot of purists don’t like it… don’t like much of Miles past In A Silent Way… or even don’t like much of Miles past Jack Johnson. But like On The Corner, I think it’s just a great listen. If you’re a first time Miles enthusiast, maybe Dark Magus is not the place to start. But I love (along with Agarta and Pangea) the direction Miles was taking during this time period, and these listens are therefore essential. It’s still Miles, baby. Listen to this album and then imagine what Carnagie Hall must have felt like!
Miles Davis-DARK MAGUS (1974) DISC 1
Miles Davis-DARK MAGUS (1974) DISC 2