By Al Di Meola
"Barry Miles was the first fusion guy. Chick Corea played in his band. Barry was the actual first fusion musician ever.
He was one of the guys that came from jazz as a little kid, brought up by his father who was a Charlie Parker freak.
Barry was this prodigy on drums and piano. He actually played drums and Chick played piano in his group. This is a true story.
He was the first writer and composer of that combination of rock and jazz. Before Miles Davis, in fact Barry took Miles' name. His last name was Silverlight. His father Art was such an enthusiast of the older jazz and had a record store.
Barry was a super prodigy and a really laid back kind of guy. Not aggressive at all but he had this tremendous talent. Long after that he became musical director for Roberta Flack.
That was my humble being in high school. I started taking lessons before I was 10. My teacher just so happened to be an old school jazz buff. I was learning a lot of that stuff and he was prepping me in his own way helping me realize where I was going even though I was into what was popular (Beatles, Beach Boys, before that The Ventures). I had some schooling and training that enabled me to be able to read the charts that Barry had written.
It was a perfect beginning and opportunity to have that before I entered the world of Return To Forever because that was another chart heavy group. You had to be able to read and read a lot and know harmony and know scales. If I didn't have schooling behind me I wouldn't have made it.
First I played with Barry and than I attended Berklee and from Berkeley is where I got the call from Chick. In that kind of order.
My first big professional gig was @ Carnegie @ 19 with Chick Corea. Prior to that I had done some real small stuff, VFW and tiny jazz clubs in Jersey. No pay get your feet wet kind of gigs.
In the very early seventies there still was not this crossover thing. It was either rock or jazz. There was very little melding of the two influences. It wasn't till it got into the seventies when it started to develop because Miles was sick and tired of straight ahead jazz. It bored the hell out of him.
He was influenced by Sly & The Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix. He started wearing wild clothes. Had an electric guitar in his group so he kind of spear headed that with "Bitches Brew" and things of that nature.
Barry Miles was quietly the first guy that we all knew about @ Berkeley. The guitar player freaks like me, we were buying his record "White Heat/Scatbird" because John Abercrombie and Pat Martino played on those sessions. I was the guy who took their place. Whoever thought that would happen.
I was really young and honored. During the coarse of playing with Barry we were practicing almost every day for a matter of many many months. We didn't have a lot of gigs but we had a lot of practice and really great training for what happened soon there after.
I did a NYE show and this very good friend of mine who is a very amateur recording engineer had this reel to reel tape recorder and had this vision of recording this for future keepsake.
He recorded the show but before the gig he had slipped me a tab of acid. That recording was the recording that he had taken upon himself to find Chick Corea wherever he was hiding in NYC because he was so proud of this recording.
That was the one that Chick heard and that's how I got the gig. I heard that tape maybe a year or two after and I said, "Jesus Christ that doesn't sound like me hardly at all. In fact it's one of the best things I've ever played."