I had conducted many interviews and “hung-out” backstage with many bands during my college Radio Station “punk” days, but nothing had prepared me for this; I was to produce a two-hour special with Miles Davis. Yes that Miles Davis, arguably the most famous Jazz musician ever.
Three years into the TV business I had fallen into producing a show on VH1 called “New Visions.” Being an ambitious Production Assistant would no longer apply. It wasn’t quite the big time, but it was a significant step in that direction.
Miles sat, he talked to Foley, to me, to camera, he blew some notes into his horn. Miles threw to videos of himself, Michael Jackson and others of his choosing. He painted live on the set, he revealed so much and left us to the connect the dots or just go with it.
“New Visions” was a show on Sunday nights on VH1 which meant there would be about twelve people watching, so the pressure was about as low as the money I had to shoot it with. We had guest hosts sitting in a tiny studio, leading into new age and some jazz videos. I had the idea to let them play live, It would be better for musicians to play than talk I reasoned.
Than an odd little started to happen. “New Visions” got some buzz. Record labels within the the new age, jazz, and progressive rock genres actually started calling me. So about six months after I started with New Visions, I’m on a plane heading back to NYC from LA. The airline messes up and I get moved up to first class. I am sitting next to a man, and we start talking (I imagined him wondering why this scruffy looking kid is sitting next to him). One thing leads to anothr as one drink lead to another. So before long I’ve rambled on and on about my vision for New Visions. There is a pause in my babbling, and he stares at me and says “Would you be interested in having Miles Davis on your show?”…. I thought for a nano second or so and said yes.
Turns out Peter Shukat, who managed Miles was my flying partner.
So in the fall of 1987 I was to produce and direct a two-hour show with Miles Davis hosting New Visions. Oh and his bass player at the time, Foley would be co-hosting? I had no pre-interview, no format, and little idea of what was going to happen but Miles would sit in the studio with his horn, his bass player, me on the floor, two cameramen, a anger-challanged engineer/TD/video shader, and Sharon Kelly a bright and gorgeous blond studio manager who Miles would utter a line to.
The next several hours were surreal, in fact I’m not sure surreal is the right word to describe what went down. Miles sat, he talked to Foley, to me, to camera, he blew some notes into his horn. Miles threw to videos of himself, Michael Jackson and others of his choosing. He painted live on the set, he revealed so much and left us to the connect the dots or just go with it.
PS: Peter passed away June of 2014, I had not been in contact with him for these many years, but what I know of him and our brief interactions with him, I can say that he was a true gentleman, and exquisite at what he did. He will be missed.