Isle of Wight
While I was with Miles there was an incredible experience I had. The Isle of Wight. This huge festival we played at on this small island in England. There were five hundred thousand people there. It was bigger than Woodstock. I flew from Los Angeles to New York to London and then we were driven by beautiful limousines until we got to the ocean, where we took a ferry boat to the Island.
When we arrived on the island we couldn’t move. There were so many people that there wasn’t any room. They had to send a helicopter to pick up the band, and it set down right there to pick us up. They flew us over all the people who were everywhere like ants, walking across everyone’s property. You know, in England they have a law that you can walk across other peoples land.
Looking down from the helicopter was really amazing. There was a space backstage to land the helicopter and we had about an hour before we played. Jimmy Hendrix played at this festival and just before us I think was Joni Mitchell and also Tiny Tim. Now he was a weird guy.
Anyway, everybody was playing at this thing. In the band with me was Wayne Shorter, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, myself and of course Miles. Plus the audience, the huge masses of people. It was beyond anything I had ever seen before. This was not something that happens very often. It was an ocean of people, as far as you could see.
We went on without a sound check and started playing. You know that all the people were digging it. All the young people. Many of them were young, and everyone was tripping on how great it was. While we were playing, one by one the musicians were fading out and stopped playing, which was part of the act that we did sometimes. All of a sudden I find myself playing, just me by myself, and I was playing the Cuica.
The cuica is a strange sounding instrument from Brazil which is a drum with a stick inside it. When you pull the stick it makes a kind of barking dog sound. So here I was playing that, and I was tripping. When I realized that I was the only one playing I looked around and everyone was looking at me, including Miles, who was just looking back like to say “OK” So I looked out at the people and again was hit by the sight of that ocean of people.
I started to play a rhythm and while I did that, the longer I did it, more and more people started to wave their hands back and forth over their heads. All of a sudden there were so many people waving their arms in time with me that it really did become an ocean, an ocean waving back and forth.
That moment was one of my greatest moments, as far as emotion is concerned. To have that many people together with you feeding from your energy, reacting to everything I played. The whole thing lasted for only a minute, but for me it was incredible. I felt like laughing and crying at the same time, all at the same time. Then someone started playing rhythm with me and the band came back in and we re-started everything. Oh, but that moment was really really special and strong.
Miles was the only jazz super star that ever existed. Of course, there is Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington, that everyone knows, but you know Miles Davis was like the Elvis Presley of Jazz. Just to get to him, to talk with Miles was like “Oh My God!”
Here are some videos of that amazing show: