Updated: Feb 4
Miles Davis - From Bitches Brew
Chapter 1 - New York, New York
Teo Macero was not just an extra ordinary composer. His works have been performed by many symphony orchestras and Ballet companies - you can check all of that out on the internet. In the jazz circles Teo Macero is considered a legend - one of the greatest jazz producers of the 20th century. Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Count Basie, Thelonious
Monk, Stan Getz and Miles Davis are a few of the major artists he has produced and the list goes on and on. Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew was the biggest jazz selling album ever at the time it was released.
I graduated from Berklee college of music in Boston and moved to New York and said to myself, Either I get something going here fairly quickly, or I go back to Israel, where everybody knows me and where my work is appreciated. And now, equipped with all the knowledge from Berklee, I can possibly make a great impact in Israel once again.
I moved in with friends while my first wife, Rama, and I were looking for a temporary apartment. 4 days went by. I got up in the morning and I told my wife, “This is ridiculous, we have been in New York for four days and nothing is happening.” Today, when I recall that statement, I laugh. I laugh as hard as my New Yorker friends did at the time. “Four days in Manhattan and nothing is happening!” Maybe it was that naivete, that youthful innocence, which lead to my successes. Not only did I never look at the possibility of failure, I never ever considered that that was an option. This attitude served me pretty well. I never wondered if I would find a parking spot, I knew I would. It was always my belief that people who made it saw the goal only, clear of any obstacles.
So here I was, “Four days in New York and nothing is happening”. My friends cracked up, “You can spend four years in this city and still nothing would happen…”
I grabbed a tape and headed to 54th street. The tape contained music that I arranged and produced while at Berklee. It featured some of the alumni musicians, instructors and a couple of great up-and-coming young students.
CBS records, on 54th street and Avenue of the Americas, was my first stop. I was going to pay a visit to every major record label in New York City that day, my fifth day in Manhattan.
I walked into this huge, imposing building and felt a bit - tiny. The lobby, with its marble floor, huge windows and towering ceilings, was expansive. I am 6’2” but I still felt very small in that space. I had never been inside a building of such grandeur before, except for the Empire State Building four years prior, but that was a different experience. The sound of people's voices and footsteps blended with the natural echoes of the building, creating a constant pink noise.
CBS record label occupied three or four floors all to itself. As I recall they started around 30. I hit 30, which was the first CBS floor. My ears popped as the elevator whisked up. There were many people wearing suits and holding attaché cases etc. I wondered who they all were…
The door opened at 30. I looked up and saw pictures of Neil Diamond and Bob Dylan. That’s great, I thought to myself, but this is not where I want to get off. Right now I am looking for jazz, not pop or rock n’ roll. Floor 31. I stuck my head out and saw stunning portraits of Leonard Bernstein, Claudio Abbado, and I think Elizabeth Schwarzkopf. It was a great floor, but it wasn't the one I was searching for.
And then a sigh escaped me. My breath caught in my throat and my eyes widened. Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, and Louis Armstrong... I stepped out of the elevator, and the doors closed behind me with a soft swoosh. Everything grew hushed. I gathered myself quickly and strode confidently towards the receptionist's desk. "May I help you?" the receptionist asked with a friendly smile.
Now, keep in mind, I was freshly arrived from Israel via Berklee College of Music. Firstly, I had no idea where Teo Macero was. I didn't know if he was in the US, Japan, or even with Columbia Records. He could've even been working for RCA Records for all I knew. I also didn't understand the meaning behind the receptionist's question, "Can I help you?" Since I was perfectly fine and didn't require any assistance, I replied politely, "No thank you, I'm fine. I'd like to see Mr. Teo Macero, please."
"Do you have an appointment?" the receptionist asked.
"Aha!" I thought to myself. "He's here. How lucky can I be!"
"No, I don't have an appointment," I replied. "But it's important. I just came from Boston and I have to see him. You see, I may have to go back to Israel and my time is limited..."
“I am sorry, sir, if you don’t have an appointment, you can’t see him.”
Everything was so foreign to me. Every phrase, every nuance was so new and strange. First off, why is she addressing me as “sir”? Why do I need an appointment? And why, if this is the jazz department, is the vibe so stiff, so “uptight”?
"An appointment..." I quickly considered my options, but I didn't know the protocol. In Israel, I had walked into any office of any record label and talked to whoever I wanted, whenever I felt like it.
"Okay," I said and turned towards the elevator. I gazed up at the wonderful pictures of the musicians I grew up admiring. They were so close, yet so far away.
I began to whistle as I surveyed the walls. I needed to do something, but there was little room to maneuver. My thoughts were jumbled and colliding with one another.
Then, something straight out of a movie occurred. I remembered a similar scene from "All the President's Men" where Dustin Hoffman pulled a stunt to bypass a secretary.
To be continued…