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Johnny Echols



Miles And ME
April 10, 2010

Love and the jazz connection. In the mid sixties, Bido Lito’s, (the club where Love was discovered) was located directly behind one of the premier jazz venues of its day, a club called Shelly’s Mann Hole. If you were anybody in the world of Avant-garde music, you invariably wound up playing there.

The close proximity to the Mann Hole was a huge plus. Many of the jazz superstars, who were performing there, would drop by Bido Lito’s, to find out what all the commotion was about. When added together, the indoor and outdoor sections of Bido Lito’s provided a substantial space, where Love would often draw crowds that were several time’s, the numbers these “Giants” were attracting on the other side of Cosmo’s Alley.

Being forward thinking musicians, (and sensing which way the wind was blowing), many of them sought to find ways to get-in on this phenomena. At various times, Paul Horn, Charles Lloyd, Miles Davis and several others, discussed the idea of fusing the two musical genres, by doing an album with Love. Though obviously motivated by the prospect of capitalizing, on the group’s growing popularity (at the time). Unfortunately, the talk never moved past the what-if stage.

Though we were considered a rock group, Arthur and I were deeply influenced by jazz and blues, and I would take any and every opportunity to incorporate jazz runs, and flourishes into Love songs. If either of us had not been immersed in this music from a very young age, Love, would have been a very different group.

Fast forward!

I moved to New York, in 1971, and established myself as a studio musician. Though I played what ever the session required, jazz, and old school blues, was still where my heart was. At a point near the end of the seventies, I touched base with my old friend Miles Davis, whom I had known since back in the day. He was ending a five year hiatus from music, and expressed a strong interest in putting together a group centered on what he referred to as, “urban street music.”

Here was a collage of rhythmic beats that were created by improvising and making use of what ever percussive implements they could find. Included were trash can lids, bottles, sticks, cans etc. And a few actual instruments, such as maracas, bongo and conga drums, rounded out the mix. Some of the more adventurous types would even “play” their own bodies; they called that, “doing the hand jive.” Anything that made a loud enough noise was fair game.

These percussionists would gather at various parks throughout the city. One of them would establish a groove, and soon fifteen or more people would join in. Enmasse, with no predetermined arrangements, they spontaneously generated some of the most intricate, and complex rhythms imaginable. This invariably attracted a large audience, and soon everyone was dancing and prancing around the park, (all) having a grand old time!

Miles was intrigued by the prospect of integrating these urban sounds and rhythms, into the more formal structure of a traditional group, where each person has a clearly defined role. He wanted to create an atmosphere where street musicians and trained musicians, could come together with no preconceived ideas, other than making music!

We gave it a valiant effort, and auditioned dozens of the best people we could find, (eventually paring them down to a workable size). Though we repeatedly rehearsed those who made the cut, the majority of them (not being musicians), could not, or would not grasp certain prerequisites. Miles, and the other lead instruments needed space, and predictable breaks in the rhythm, in order to develop the chordal lines, and musical phrases that are integral, to the creation of memorable jazz Solos.
What worked in the park, clearly wasn’t working in the studio. Few of the players could even conceive of the idea of laying back, or having a give and take. After several practice sessions, it was obvious, they just didn’t get it!

They wouldn’t leave room for Miles, so Miles left the room. The irony in
this was all too clear, by insisting they behave as trained musicians, we were contravening the very reason they were there in the first place. The whole endeavor was an oxymoron on its face!

And Miles, who was forever re-inventing jazz, found the reality of bringing that many disparate and undisciplined street drummers, together (with professional musicians) was totally un-workable, so we all moved on!

After reviewing the tapes of these rehearsals, we found nothing, that
would remotely justify a commercial, or even a credible bootleg release. This was a cacophony of sound, that went nowhere. So I trust things will remain as they are, and the results of those efforts, shall remain “Lost.”

Just another day in the life!

Johnny Echols