One warm August evening in 1970, Miles Davis, the trumpeter who had been at the forefront of jazz since the 1940’s, walked onstage with six other musicians. Forty minutes later they walked off to a standing ovation from a crowd of 600,000, most of whom had come to the Isle Of Wight festival to see Jimi Hendrix or The Who.
They were applauding a performance of intense, free-flowing, improvised music that had more in common with the funk grooves of James Brown and the long acid-fuelled jams of the Grateful Dead than it did with jazz in it’s generally accepted form. Instead of playing a recognised set of tunes, the band went on a journey exploring rhythm, texture, atmosphere and dynamics. Underpinned by the fierce swing of Jack DeJohnette’s drums and young British bass prodigy Dave Holland’s proto-funk lines, electric keyboard players Keith Jarret and Chick Corea poured out layer upon layer of rhythmic chops. Swirls of melody and free-form sax soloing from Gary Bartz interplayed with Miles own thoughtful and precise playing. Airto Moreira’s vast array of weird percussion instruments added more rhythm and colour.
The performance was recorded, and is available on the DVD Miles Electric: A Different Kind Of Blue. The DVD opens with a documentary feature about Miles, about the music and about the concert, followed by the film of the performance.
Thanks to the miracle of the internet, you can watch the performance below, the full show split into four clips. The first clip opens with a four minute introduction by pianist Keith Jarret.