Marcus MILLER- Marcus 2008

Marcus MILLER- Marcus 2008

Jazz

Marcus Miller has a resume most people in the music world would envy. Miller is a bassist who’s also a producer, arranger, composer (including movie soundtracks), and multi-instrumentalist who has appeared on over 200 albums. His first for Concord, MARCUS, is a savory stew of jazz, funk, pop, and R&B. There are lean, stirring versions of classics by Stevie Wonder (“Higher Ground”) and Tower of Power (“What Is Hip”), soothing vocals from Corrine Bailey Rae, and a tip of the hat to Miller’s old boss Miles Davis (“Jean-Pierre”). Add the saxophones of David Sanborn and Tom Scott to the mix and one has a recipe for some nifty, debonair, groove-centric jazz.
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Even though a virtuoso musician, he always manages to produce musical music whilst also amazing you with his skills – something that many of his contemporaries fail to achieve.
On this album – which is the new Concord Jazz release of the 2007 Album “Free” (the only difference is the added spoken word version of Robin Thicke’s 2007 hit Lost Without You from Evolution of Robin Thicke) – Marcus Miller is joined by Poogie Bell on drums, Michael ‘Patches Stewart’ on trumpet, Paul Jackson jr. on guitar, David Sanborn and Tom Scott on saxes, Bobby Sparks II on keys, while he plays almost everything else.
Corinne Bailey Rae and Lalah Hathaway lend a hand on vocals.
This is a killer front line, but the slim bassman in the flat-brim porkpie hat is at the beating heart of everything.
Ex-Miles Davis collaborator, the bass master and production guru is the eternal muso’s muso.
Marcus Miller is considered one of, if not the best contemporary bass players, having played with countless big name acts such as Miles Davis, David Sanborn, Luther Vandross just to name a few and also has a successful solo career.
Working with artists representing a wide variety of genres is a major theme on this latest work.
Yet his solo albums have been a mixed bag of sophisticated arrangements and slap solos, with occasionally questionable covers.
“Marcus” finds him striving for the raw funk of his Miles days, delivering great stripped down versions of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” and Tower Of Power’s “What Is Hip?”.
Corinne Bailey Rae crops up on Denise Williams’ 1976 classic “Free” and she sounds good, but not great.
Miller plays it pretty straight on this rendition that holds close musically to Williams’ original (see This Is Niecy). The main difference is Miller’s bass playing, in which he employs his signature thumping and plucking funky style. The version also includes some definite jazz influenced improvising by Miller, as well as a saxophone solo.
You may like “Blast”, a thumb-punched gem and his version of the electric-Miles classic, “Jean-Pierre”. “I had the honour to work with Miles Davis long ago when I was 21 years of age and I finally figured out how to play this sucker.” Marcus says.
There’s an interesting version of “When I Fall In Love”, a bass-clarinet ballad : it showes his versatility, but he’s principally a born bassman and he does it as a funky fretless thing. Elsewhere it’s lots of very tight, precise slap that really shows off his amazing phrasing – very cleanly exectuted lines – with a few eastern and asian flavours creeping into the mix.
Overall it’s very good but a little different from what he’s done before.
It’s pretty darn funky. More in the funk vein than most of his more recent jazzy albums and at times it gets some great R&B as well.
His playing sounds amazing – and the killer cover this time around is his version of Tower Of Power’s “What Is Hip”, which, instead of finger picking, he slaps all the way, with a pocket so tight it hurts.
So if you like your jazz with plenty of life-affirming soul, dont hesitate. You will enjoy it.
By Gimme Jazz.
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Lalah Hathaway– Vocals
Corinne Bailey Rae– Vocals
Keb’ Mo’– Vocals
Shihan the Poet– Vocals
Taraji P. Henson- Vocals
David Sanborn– Alto Sax
Tom Scott– Tenor Sax
Michael “Patches” Stewart– Trumpet, Flügelhorn
Paul Jackson, Jr.– Guitar
Bernard Wright– Organ, Synth
Gregoire Maret– Harmonica
Poogie Bell– Drums
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01. Blast!  5:43
02. Funk Joint  5:12
03. Free (Feat. Corrine Bailey Rae)  5:00
04. Higher Ground  5:10
05. Milky Way (Feat. Keb’Mo’)  5:36
06. Pluck (Interlude)  3:19
07. Lost Without U  4:41
08. ‘Cause I Wan’t You (Feat. Shiban The Poet)  3:12
09. Ooh (Feat. Lalah Hathaway)  4:00
10. When I Fall In Love  5:23
11. Strum  5:41
12. Jean Pierre  6:15
13. What Is Hip?  6:02
14. Lost Without U (Spoken Word) (Feat. Taraji P. Henson)  5:34
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