Every five years after Miles Davis hit New York in 1944, he instigated new forms of musical insurgency. Each genre we love today bears his expansive influence, not least because Davis was that rare artist who wrecked us as much with the notes he didn’t play as with those he did. Like the late B.B. King, the trumpeter knew his tone was molten and that one hot, bent blurt from him could slay audiences more efficiently than other bozos’ full metal jackets. Between 1969 and 1975 in particular, Miles innovated and changed styles more often than his hippie-pimp shoes. He plugged in, turned up, took off, then sucked the future of music into his mythical tailwind — jazz, rock and R&B in his lifetime; later, by implication, punk, hip-hop, trip-hop, jungle, and even dubstep and EDM.
Columbia and Legacy have now boxed up a four-CD, 20-year cornucopia of live performances that show that evolution in real time, drawing on his appearances at the globe-roving Newport Jazz Festival with diverse collaborators. Of special interest to those enthralled by Davis’ Afro-futuristic acid-funk phase will be the 45-minute-plus live set from Berlin in 1973, featuring the merciless guitar mutations of the late Chicago blues radical Pete Cosey. “I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later,” Davis used to say. Well, then, how soon is now?