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Marcus by Marcus Miller

Bassist, bass clarinetist, saxophonist, keyboardist and composer Marcus Miller was Miles Davis’ right-hand man through much of the 1980s. Together, they co-constructed true works of art, including Tutu and Star People. Miller is also important in helping guide saxophonist David Sanborn through seven of his most important contemporary jazz albums. All told, Miller has appeared on over 500 albums with the biggest names from every facet and genre in the music industry. The list includes Frank Sinatra, Luther Vandross, Mariah Carey, George Benson, Dizzy Gillespie, Aretha Franklin, Billy Idol, Snoop Dogg and Eric Clapton, to name just a few.

Marcus, Miller’s ninth as a leader and his debut on Concord, features his usual astoundingly beautiful and virtuosic bass playing in a variety of musical styles. In this recording, as opposed to his early solo releases, the greatest emphasis is on soulful funk. Guest stars abound including Sanborn, saxophonist Tom Scott, vocalist Lalah Hathaway and his long time trumpeter Michael "Patches" Stewart.

Almost every track is great. Sanborn has never sounded more soulful than on "Free," where vocalist Corinne Bailey Rae turns the 1976 soul classic into the utmost of 21st century hipness. Stevie Wonder’s "Higher Ground" gets a deeply earthy rock-solid interpretation and "Jean Pierre," from Miller’s work with Miles Davis, also gets an updated treatment with a hipper and more up-tempo beat. Bass players looking for a cut where Miller cuts loose will find much to marvel at during this tune.

Lalah Hathaway’s singing on Robin Thicke’s "Lost Without You" is splendor incarnate. Singing in duet with Miller’s bass, the two fashion a sound so supreme you immediately and sadly realize this soulful cut will never make it on the radio because it’s way too good for wide public consumption. In Miller’s hands, even the remake of Tower of Power’s "What Is Hip," a tune one would not normally associate with Miller refashioning, sounds logical. Even his use of bass clarinet doubling on the chorus somehow seems right in Miller’s world.

Miller’s skills are too multifarious for him to be locked into a single style for any single recording; elements of funk, rap, soul and jazz are all present and many times freely mix. Those looking for a single musical statement to play on the stereo during parties will be greatly disappointed. To truly appreciate Miller’s wide abilities and talents, one must accept it all.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Marcus Miller
  • CD Title: Marcus
  • Genre: Soul / Funk Jazz
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Concord Records
  • Rating: Four Stars
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