Live-Evil (Miles Davis album)

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Miles Davis Live-Evil.jpg
Studio / live album by
ReleasedNovember 17, 1971
RecordedFebruary 6 and June 3–4, 1970, at Columbia Studio B in New York City; December 19, 1970 at The Cellar Door in Washington, D.C.
ProducerTeo Macero
Miles Davis chronology
Jack Johnson
On the Corner

Live-Evil is an album of both live and studio recordings by American jazz musician Miles Davis.[1] Parts of the album featured music from Davis' concert at the Cellar Door in 1970, which producer Teo Macero subsequently edited and pieced together in the studio.[2] They were performed as lengthy, dense jams in the jazz-rock style, while the studio recordings consisted mostly of renditions of Hermeto Pascoal compositions.[3] The album was originally released on November 17, 1971.[4]


A number of famous jazz musicians feature on the album, including Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette. One of the key musicians on the album, John McLaughlin, was not a regular member of Miles Davis's band during the time of recording. Davis called McLaughlin at the last minute to join the band for the last of four nights they recorded live at the Cellar Door, as Davis was "looking for an element he hadn't quite nailed down"[5] on the previous nights.

Davis had originally intended the album to be a spiritual successor to Bitches Brew, but this idea was abandoned when it became obvious that Live-Evil was "something completely different".[6]

Cover artwork[edit]

The album cover was illustrated by artist Mati Klarwein. Klarwein had painted the front cover independently of Davis, but the back cover was painted with a suggestion from Davis:

"I was doing the picture of the pregnant woman for the cover and the day I finished, Miles called me up and said, 'I want a picture of life on one side and evil on the other.' And all he mentioned was a toad. Then next to me was a copy of Time Magazine which had J. Edgar Hoover on the cover, and he just looked like a toad. I told Miles I found the toad."[7]

Record club pressings of the album simply had the album title printed on a black cover.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Retrospective professional reviews
Review scores
All Music Guide to Jazz[9]
Christgau's Record GuideA−[10]
Down Beat[11]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[12]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[13]
Los Angeles Times[14]
MusicHound Jazz3/5[15]
Penguin Guide to Jazz[16]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[18]

Live-Evil was released by Columbia Records in 1971 to critical acclaim.[20] In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, Robert Palmer said "this sounds like what Miles had in mind when he first got into electric music and freer structures and rock rhythms". He called the shorter, ballad-like recordings "things of great beauty", devoid of solos but full of "stunning, bittersweet lines", while also praising each band member's soloing on the live jams: "Everybody is just playing away, there aren't any weak links, and there isn't any congestion to speak of. Miles reacts to this happy situation by playing his ass off, too".[21] Black World critic Red Scott remarked that all of Live-Evil's songs "fuse into a perfect complement of musicians passing moods to each other".[22] Pete Welding from Down Beat was less enthusiastic in a two-and-a-half star review, finding the live recordings characterized by "long dull stretches of water-treading alternating with moments of strength and inspiration".[11]

The magazine's John Corbett later called Live-Evil "an outstandingly creative electric collage",[11] while Erik Davis from Spin found the music "kinetic" and described McLaughlin's playing as "Hindu heavy-metal fretwork".[23] Pitchfork's Ryan Schreiber believed it was "easily the most accessible of Miles Davis' late-'70s [sic] electric releases", describing its music as "at once both sexually steamy and unsettling". He said the live recordings "run the gamut from barroom brawl action-funk to sensual bedroom jazz magic, creating two hours of charged eccentricity you'll never forget".[17] Robert Christgau said that apart from the meandering "Inamorata", the "long pieces are usually fascinating and often exciting", including "Funky Tonk", which he called Davis's "most compelling rhythmic exploration to date". He believed the shorter pieces sounded like "impressionistic experiments", while "Selim" and "Nem Um Talvez" appropriately "hark back to the late '50s".[10] Edwin C. Faust from Stylus Magazine called Live-Evil "one of the funkiest albums ever recorded" while deeming the "somber" short pieces to be "haunting examples of musical purity—Miles enriching our ears with evocative melodies (his work on Sketches of Spain comes to mind) while the bass creeps cautiously, an organ hums tensly, and human whistles/vocals float about forebodingly like wistful phantoms".[24]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
1."Sivad"Miles Davis15:16
2."Little Church"Hermeto Pascoal3:17
3."Medley: Gemini/Double Image"Davis/Joe Zawinul5:56
Side two
1."What I Say"Davis21:12
2."Nem Um Talvez"Pascoal4:03
Side three
2."Funky Tonk"Davis23:28
Side four
1."Inamorata and Narration by Conrad Roberts"Davis26:29
Total length:101:56

Personnel and recording sources[edit]

The live tracks on Live-Evil were truncated edits of various live jams recorded at The Cellar Door in 1970. Below is a list of each track with its corresponding source performances (which were released in the 2005 box set The Cellar Door Sessions 1970).

Note: The Cellar Door Sessions 1970 box set uses the titles "Improvisation #4" (for Keith Jarrett's keyboard intro) and "Inamorata" instead of "Funky Tonk". In the Source column of the tables above, the title "Funky Tonk" is used.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cole, George (2007). The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980–1991. University of Michigan Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-472-03260-0.
  2. ^ Carr, Roy (21 August 1997). GoogleBooks preview. ISBN 9780306807787. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  3. ^ White, Lenny (2012). "Miles, Tony Williams, and the Road to Bitches Brew". In Dregni, Michael (ed.). Miles Davis: The Complete Illustrated History. Voyageur Press. p. 153. ISBN 978-0760342626.
  4. ^ "Live-Evil - Miles Davis : Releases". AllMusic. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  5. ^ Goode, Mort, ed. (1972). The Inner Sleeve. Columbia.
  6. ^ Davis, Miles. Miles: The Autobiography. ISBN 0-634-00682-7
  7. ^ Szwed, John. So What: the Life of Miles Davis, p. 319
  8. ^ "Discogs". Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  9. ^ Jurek, Thom (2002). "Live-Evil". In Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (eds.). All Music Guide to Jazz. Backbeat Books. p. 313. ISBN 0-87930-717-X.
  10. ^ a b Christgau 1981, p. 102.
  11. ^ a b c Alkyer, Frank; Enright, Ed; Koransky, Jason, eds. (2007). The Miles Davis Reader. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 257, 331. ISBN 978-1423430766.
  12. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  13. ^ Sinclair, Tom (August 1, 1997). Review: Miles Davis live albums. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2011-02-26.
  14. ^ Heckman, Don (July 27, 1997). "Unleashing More of the Davis Legacy : MILES DAVIS". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  15. ^ Holtje, Steve; Lee, Nancy Ann, eds. (1998). "Miles Davis". MusicHound Jazz: The Essential Album Guide. Music Sales Corporation. ISBN 0825672538.
  16. ^ Cook & Morton 1992, p. 377.
  17. ^ a b Schreiber, Ryan (1997). Review: Live-Evil. Pitchfork. Archived from on 2011-01-08.
  18. ^ Considine et al. 2004, p. 215.
  19. ^ Campbell, Hernan M. (April 18, 2012). "Review: Miles Davis - Live Evil". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
  20. ^ Carr, Ian (2009). Miles Davis: The Definitive Biography. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0786747016.
  21. ^ Palmer, Bob (January 20, 1972). Review: Live-Evil. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2011-01-08.
  22. ^ Scott, Red (September 1972). "Review: Live-Evil". Black World: 19, 86.
  23. ^ Davis, Erik (April 1997). "Freakin' the Funk – Revisiting Miles Davis's '70s Visions". Spin: 117.
  24. ^ Faust, Edwin C. (September 1, 2003). Review: Live-Evil. Stylus Magazine. Retrieved on 2011-01-08.


External links[edit]