John McLaughlin: Miles Had No Paper Bags, No Chords

John McLaughlin on Miles Davis, Mahavishnu and More
by Dean Budnick on January 23, 2015

Miles Davis & John McLaughlinJohn McLaughlin: Normally, when Miles would come into the studio, he’d be carrying a coffee in a brown paper bag and, in the taxi, he had taken the paper bag and scribbled some chords. We’d play around those chords and that’s how the session got going. Only with Jack Johnson, he didn’t even have any paper bags; he didn’t have anything.

….Miles was in the cabin with [producer] Teo Macero and after 20 minutes of sitting in the studio, I just said, “I’m gonna play; I’m bored.” So I started playing this thing that subsequently became “The Noonward Race”—that piece for the Mahavishnu Orchestra—but I played it in an R&B way. I had spent so many years playing rhythm and blues in the ‘60s.

So I just started jamming. Billy [Cobham] picked it up, Michael Henderson picked it up and we had a groove going. Then, Miles ran into the studio with the red light on and he played the most unbelievable trumpet for 15 minutes straight.

I think one of the reasons he really liked that record was because it didn’t come from his direction—it just came about.

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