I offer no apologies whatsoever for my love of the music of Chuck Mangione, David Sanborn and Marcus Miller. I’ve been very lucky to have had a few “musically divine interventions” in my life, and their music was involved in each one of them.
I started playing trumpet in the late summer of 1977. For my 8th birthday that August, my mom bought me Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good” album (on 8-track!). Listening to this album was a completely new experience for me, as I had not listened to a lot of music with the trumpet/flugelhorn as the lead instrument up to that point. This was back in the day when instrumental pop songs were still played on the radio (thanks for fucking that up, Kenny G!), so there was a mainstream following as well. It’s not a stretch to say that I listened to this album every day that I possibly could between 1977-1981, when my dad got the Main Squeeze album.
This album has some serious groove….the title track is gospel at its best, and hearing a flugelhorn with a wah pedal is pretty badass. For years this album was out of print, but now that it’s on iTunes, I will always have the opportunity to cherish it.
I first met David Sanborn in the Spring of ‘84. His son (and my high school friend) Jonathan was playing with his band Off-White doing a concert in our high school auditorium. David came up from NYC for the concert. Jonathan asked me to introduce the band (“We have some funk for your delight….ladies and gentlemen, Off-White!” Not bad for a dorky 14-year-old.), and they were amazing! My friend Chris played alto sax in the band (using the same Dukoff D8 mouthpiece that David used at the time) and they covered David’s tune Butterfat, which he used to play into commercial quite frequently when sitting in with Paul Shaffer’s band on Letterman. They fucking nailed it, and I remember watching David’s face in the audience from the wings, and he had this incredible look of pride.
After the concert, David came backstage, and he was incredibly gracious to everyone, including my dad, who was the teacher on duty during the concert. He thought my intro was pretty cool, and to say that I was blown away does not do justice to how awestruck that experience was. I started listening to all of his albums like there was no tomorrow. This is how I REALLY discovered the music of Marcus Miller, and had another incredible moment of musical divine intervention.
I started playing bass in the fall of 1985. The whole year prior to this, I was obsessed with listening to my David Sanborn albums featuring Marcus Miller, especially the live, “Straight to the Heart” album, as well as Marcus’ “Suddenly” and “Superspy” albums. I wanted to sound like Marcus Miller (even though I was playing a shitty Peavey Fury bass), and although I didn’t realize it at the time, this was when I truly started to find my musical identity. This music did far more than just resonate with me – it cheered me up when I was down, and when I needed to get psyched up, my go-to song was (and still is) Marcus’ Run For Cover! Summers were not complete unless I saw Sanborn perform up at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and when his “Double Vision” album with Bob James came out in ‘86, it more than knocked me on my ass!
In the fall of ‘86, I teamed up with Chris (the alto player from Off-White) and some other friends to form the band Backtalk…we prided ourselves on playing a song that we always heard David play live (or into commercial break on Letterman), but none of us knew the name of the song. Chris knew that Marcus wrote it, so we rehearsed it, learned it, and played it on gigs calling it “The Marcus Tune”…..one of the coolest moments in my entire life was buying David’s “A Change of Heart” album (on cassette) one Saturday afternoon in February 1987, popping the cassette in the tape deck as I was leaving the mall, and the first track (Chicago Song) was the studio recorded version of The Marcus Tune! I thought we were some badass mofo’s because we were already playing the tune on gigs before the album even hit the record stores!
Fast forward to 1997….on a whim, I decided to get a personalized license plate, just to do something different. I figured SANBORN would already be taken, but lo and behold, I got this as my plate. During the summer of 2000, I went to see David at SPAC, and for fun, I took my original blue & gold Pennsylvania license plate, as the newer white blue and gold plates were issued that year. Fate intervened – a JazzTimes Magazine writer saw me with my license plate, and said I needed to have my “Moment of Zen”, and he got me front row center for the concert. At the end of the show, I handed David the license plate, reminded him of who I was (as I hadn’t seen him in years), and he graciously invited me and my friends backstage, as I gave him the license plate. To this day, every time I see him in concert in smaller venues like the Birchmere in Alexandria, he’s always incredibly nice when we see each other.
Marcus was the one I never thought I’d get to meet….after years of being “his biggest fan” (I’m biased), it just seemed like I’d never get to meet one of my biggest musical idols. I’d finally upgraded to a real Fender Jazz Bass around 2013, and I remember telling someone jokingly that if I ever met Marcus, I’d have him sign my bass. Divine intervention – two days after saying this to someone, it was announced that Marcus would be playing the Birchmere in Alexandria, walking distance from my house. The night of the concert, I put my bass in the trunk of my car and drove over to the Birchmere INCREDIBLY early, as seats are given by lottery ticket….I was almost dead center, and only three rows back from Marcus Miller….MARCUS FUCKING MILLER!!! After the show I went out to my car, brought in my bass, and was immediately told that it couldn’t be autographed. If not for Marcus’ publicist Bibi Green, who I talked to before the concert, and who overruled the decision, I would’ve gone home disappointed. Meeting Marcus was a full-circle moment. I felt like the 16 year-old kid back in my room listening to his albums, trying not to be giddy (for me, this was the equivalent of a Beatles fan meeting Paul McCartney). We had a real cool conversation (and yes, I shared the Marcus Tune story!)
For my 50th birthday, Jenn got me two of the coolest gifts ever – the chance to meet my doppelgänger, Al Roker in NYC, and the chance to see David Sanborn, Marcus Miller and Bob James perform the “Double Vision Revisited” concert at the Birchmere. In addition to having fantastic seats, she got me this as the ultimate gift.
I know this will never happen, but I can dream…I would love to see Chuck Mangione, David Sanborn and Marcus Miller on the same stage in concert…I know that Chuck is pretty much retired, but man, that would be awesome. I can’t imagine how different music would be for me (or life, for that matter) had I not taken the opportunity to listen and learn from the music of these incredibly talented musicians. I’m still inspired by them each and every day, as I still listen to each of their albums like they came out just yesterday. Chuck, David and Marcus…from the bottom of my heart, I cannot thank you enough. 😊❤️🎶🎺🎷🎸