George Wein, probably the most influential American jazz impresario, is the man behind the Newport Jazz "on the road" series, having founded the famous festival back in Rhode Island. Without him the Parisian crowds, who were already in love with jazz having seen an explosion of the genre's popularity in the post-war years, might not have been able to experience icons like Miles Davis in live concert. Here, in 1974, he was filmed performing for the second time at this event, backed up by a stellar crew including the innovative atonalist David Liebman on saxophone, the French, Art Ensemble of Chicago percussionist Dominique Gaumont and a trio of exceptional electric guitarists – the Jimmy Hendrix-esque Pete Cosey, the legendary Al Foster and Madonna's one-time producer, Reggie Lucas.
Throughout the early 70s Miles chopped and changed his accompanists a lot, looking for the perfect, alchemic formula to capitalize on his foray into electronic territory. He recorded several compilation albums, including two in '74 (Big Fun and Get Up With It) and was particularly interested in long pieces, as in part one of this concert, which features a long improvised movement that is equal parts challenging and rewarding. It was also at this time that Davis was battling depression, sickle-cell anemia and stomach ulcers, and before long he got caught up in a web of alcohol and drug self-medication that resulted in his five year hiatus (1975-80). In this concert we are witnessing a towering artist on the brink of self-destruction, and the music reflects that chaotic energy.