About halfway through June, I got a letter from my press agent asking if I wanted to go to the Hollywood Bowl on the evening of June 27 for the unveiling of the Miles Davis postage stamp. I checked my schedule and found, to my surprise, I was going to be in Los Angeles on that date, so I wrote back and said yes. I have been invited to a few Miles Davis events and appreciate the kindness of the Davis family very much.
Days later, I got another letter asking if I would speak at the event. Hang out with a bunch of jazz fans and talk about Miles Davis? I'm in. Immediately my name was in the press release and out it went.
Saying "Sure, I'll do it" is the easy part. Where the rubber and the road meet is afterwards, when you realize that you now have to deliver something. I decided to take an offensive posture, to pretend that the audience was not all on board with a Miles Davis postage stamp and needed to be persuaded. I got to work on my statement. Come out fighting!
By the late afternoon of the 27, I figured I was as ready as I would ever be. I had made some notes I knew I wouldn't be using, got in my car and headed to the Bowl for an 1830 hrs. meet with Karen Sundell, who handles press relations for the Miles Davis Estate. Upon arriving, I met up with Karen and said hello to members of the Davis family: son Erin, daughter Cheryl, nephew Vince Wilburn and the beautiful, exquisite and altogether lovely Frances Davis, Miles' first wife, whom I had met before at a Miles event at the Grammy Museum.
I was given a personalized plaque commemorating the evening, which only knotted my entrails tighter.
Cool event. A small stage and sound system, several rows of chairs. Bubba Jackson of KKJZ FM 88.1 hosting. Short speeches by Arvind Manocha, chief operating officer of the L.A. Philharmonic Association, followed by Miles collaborator, multi-instrumentalist and all-around musical whiz Marcus Miller. And then, to drop the bar several notches, me. Soon after, a word from Los Angeles' postmaster, Mark. H. Anderson, and then the stamp unveiling.
Soon enough, it was time to go. Bubba hit the stage and started bringing up his speakers. After a very cool tribute from Marcus Miller, who is a couple of years older than I am and looks years younger, Bubba called me to the stage. I put my notes down. Onstage, I can only go with what's in my head -- words on a page uselessly swim in front of my eyes. I grabbed the mic and stated my case.