Picture this; Miles Davis is opening act for Neil Young and Crazy Horse and The Steve Miller Band. You could not ask for a more diverse setting, or potentially a more hostile one. But – and this speaks to the times we were in on March 6, 1970, we were willing to check it out. Many people in that audience knew about Miles Davis because the FM underground didn’t treat Davis as some foreign entity. In the realm of experimentation and reaching out, the choice of someone of the stature of Miles Davis, who was used to the Newport Jazz Festivals and Carnegie Halls of the world, seemed not only adventurous, but made perfect sense. We had arrived at the point in time where a segment of our media was interested in furthering the cause of music on the basis of it being good, not if it fit into some format or genre.
Here was an audience who had, for the most part, been turned on to things by people who had a wide range of Musical love and knowledge, who were actively imparting that love and knowledge on a group of people who were willing to listen.
The end result was a whole new and much larger audience for Miles Davis – and it paved the way for Bitches Brew to be one of the biggest selling albums of Miles Davis’ career, but it also got people listening and paying attention to Jazz. Miles Davis changed the course of Jazz several times during his career, but he also brought it to people who never knew about it before and took it to a place it had never been. I keep thinking about how important Bitches Brew was to music at the time. How that album made it possible for a later David album, A Tribute To Jack Johnson gave us John McLaughlin and how that part of the great family tree went off.
These were pivotal moments for music – we didn’t really know that at the time. We were enthralled by the sound and the emotional places were being taken to. I remember hearing Miles Davis at the Troubadour in West Hollywood around 1973 – and walked away a different person.
Such is the power of music. Have a listen and pretend you’re sitting at The Fillmore and you’ve never heard Miles Davis before. And take it from there.