I missed the TechCrunch BBQ because of a previous long-standing commitment--a San Francisco Jazz Festival appearance by an old acquantance, Marcus Miller. In his own way, Marcus represents the same kind of transference of an elegant age to the new generation that Dave Winer has shouldered by his return to the Bay Area.
It's been 24 years since Marcus and I sat in a living room on Broad Beach in Malibu and recorded several tracks on my PortaStudio. To those who recognize the symbolism, yes, indeed, it was podcasting at an earlier dawn. Marcus was laying down work tapes, sketches, of songs for David Sanborn's follow up to his Voyeur album. I was staying at Sanborn's house, nursing a divorce from my first wife and apprenticing with Sanborn's next producer, Bob Margouleff.
That day, Marcus walked in from the beach-side door carrying an electric bass and a backpack. He was in town for a session and then back on the road with Miles Davis. Sanborn was asleep in the back of the house. For the next 2 hours, Marcus laid down three tracks, first Giant Steps to get the instruments (Mini-Moog, fretless bass, electric piano, drum machine) and the PortaStudio eqed and me comfortable with punching in, and then two songs, one of which made it on the next record in reproduced form.
For years after, I would play these tracks when I needed a lift, to calm down, remind myself what can come wholly formed out of the ether that is the musical mind. What struck me at the time was how Marcus would lay down a Moog bass line that would lay out for a complementary octave-up run he laid down three overdubs later with electric bass. Or the way the piano part would come to life and dance with the Moog lead parts that were almost cacaphonous without their imagined counterpoint yet to be recorded but heard all along.
And when our daughter Naomi was in the womb and scaring us to death with inactivity in the later stages of pregnancy, I'd put Marcus on and watch her begin to dance. Friday night, his genius, if that is what his God-given talent can be trivialized as, was there again. Never left.
Talking with Dave Winer today about his observation of a certain panic in this new tech outburst we're in, I allowed as how it wasn't fragile. As Dave agreed, there's nothing wrong with a little panic--it keeps the blood moving. But those who dispute the power of what we are living in, who fall back on entropy and credentials as a mark of authority, are kidding themselves. It felt great to see Marcus afterward, and laugh at the thought that we were so young then, and know that we still are. As Marcus said, recalling that day on the beach, "We had a lot of fun, didn't we."