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Marcus Miller Listen/Buy Marcus' Latest CD: Renaissance (2012)

Marcus Miller

An album entitled Renaissance is long overdue for the widely acclaimed Renaissance Man Marcus Miller. In among the most enviable careers in music, Miller is a two-time Grammy-winner and the composer/producer of ten critically acclaimed and genre-defying albums (seven studio and three live). Even the most devoted follower may be astonished to realize that Renaissance is only his eighth studio project since his 1983 debut, Suddenly, considering the abundance of occasions Miller’s name has appeared within album credits and that he has dazzled with performances, compositions and productions – in the company of some of the world’s most respected and accomplished players and superstars – from the mid-`70s to the present.

As a multi-instrumentalist, Marcus is highly proficient as a keyboardist, clarinetist/bass clarinetist and, primarily, as a world-renowned electric bassist, topping critics' and readers' polls for three decades. His résumé as an A-list player brims with over 500 recording credits as a sideman on albums across the spectrum of musical styles: rock (Donald Fagen and Eric Clapton), Jazz (George Benson, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Sample, Wayne Shorter and Grover Washington, Jr.), pop (Roberta Flack, Paul Simon and Mariah Carey), R&B (Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan), hip hop (Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg), blues (Z.Z. Hill), new wave (Billy Idol), smooth jazz (Al Jarreau and Dave Koz) and opera (collaborations with tenor Kenn Hicks and soprano Kathleen Battle).

As a film music pro, Miller rose from writing the go-go party classic “Da Butt” for Spike Lee’s “School Daze” to becoming the go-to composer for 20+ films (from the documentary “1 Love” to the animated children’s fable “The Trumpet and The Swan” to the Eddie Murphy/Halle Berry classic “Boomerang”).

As a producer, writer and player, he was the last primary collaborator of jazz legend Miles Davis, contributing the composition and album “Tutu” to the canon of contemporary jazz music. The breadth of his collaborative talents were best showcased in his work with the late, great soul man Luther Vandross, contributing to well over half of his albums as a producer, composer and/or player on a string of hits capped by “Power of Love/Love Power” for which Marcus won his first Grammy, 1991’s R&B Song of the Year.

And starting with David Sanborn’s 1980 album Hideaway and its follow-up Voyeur (for which the alto sax giant won a Grammy performing Marcus' composition “All I Need is You”), Marcus not only left an indelible mark on Sanborn’s distinctive sound, he laid the often-copied blueprint for the coolest of contemporary jazz sounds.

Style, soul and intense professionalism have set Marcus Miller at the top of his game for three decades now. Marcus was born in 1959 and raised in a musical family that includes his father, William Miller (a church organist and choir director) and jazz pianist Wynton Kelly. By 13, Marcus was proficient on clarinet, piano and bass guitar, and already writing songs. Two years later he was working regularly in New York City, eventually playing bass and writing music for jazz flutist Bobbi Humphrey and keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith. Miller soon became a top call session musician, gracing well over 500 albums, recording with musicians and in countries around the globe – from Frank Sinatra and Elton John to Bill Withers and LL Cool J.

After two R&B-leaning solo albums for Warner Bros. in the `80s followed by co-leading The Jamaica Boys (with drummer Lenny White and singer Mark Stevens), Marcus took a hiatus then returned rejuvenated with the galvanizing The Sun Don’t Lie (1993) and Tales (1995), both of which found him brilliantly connecting the dots of Black music’s evolution. Following the fan-demanded Live and More in 1997, Miller released M2 (“M-Squared”) on his own 3 Deuces Records label and won his second Grammy, 2001’s Best Contemporary Jazz Album. A second double live CD, The Ozell Tapes: The Official Bootleg (2003) came next, followed by Silver Rain (2005) and Marcus (2008) (released as Free in Europe and Asia) featuring his Grammy-nominated crowd-rouser of Middle Eastern Funk, “Blast.”

2007 found Marcus in a new realm, as host of the North Sea Jazz Cruise, followed by the Playboy Jazz Cruise in 2009 and subsequent Smooth Jazz Cruises annually. In 2008, he co-led the all-star bass trio S.M.V. with Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten for an album (entitled Thunder) followed by an extensive world tour. A concert Marcus arranged and produced with his own band and The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra featuring trumpeter Roy Hargrove and vocalist Raul Midon was recorded the same year and subsequently released as A Night in Monte-Carlo. In the fall of 2009, Marcus put together a new band of young musicians for “Tutu Revisited” – a project that started as a special one night only event to coincide with the acclaimed We Want Miles exhibit at Cité de la Musique in Paris – then became a two-year global sensation beautifully captured for posterity on the CD/DVD Tutu Revisited featuring Christian Scott. In 2011 Marcus went on from Tutu Revisited to co-lead another trio DMS, a funk-jazz collaboration with George Duke and David Sanborn. In the summer of 2012 Marcus conceived of and produced the “Tribute to Miles” tour, a 9-city tour of Europe with fellow Davis alumni Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, in which they presented their unique vision of every era of Miles’ music.

In the midst of all of his tours, Miller still miraculously made time to continue working in the studio, co-producing George Benson’s concept album Songs & Stories and Dave Koz’s Grammy-nominated CD Hello Tomorrow. He also co-produced a track with Herbie Hancock and internationally renowned singer Juanes entitled “La Tierra” for Hancock’s ambitious The Imagine Project.

Now, duly fortified and deeply inspired, Marcus Miller returns to composing and exploring new music of his own on Renaissance with a sharper focus than ever before, a new band of curious and like-minded young musicians, and a mission to travel the world – country by country, city by city, venue by venue – to take the message of this musical movement straight to the hearts, souls and minds of the people.

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CD/LP/Track Review http://j.mp/Su8bQX 2,156

Marcus Miller: Renaissance (2012)

By JOHN KELMAN,

Published: December 4, 2012 Some things change, other things stay the same. Marcus Miller—producer and performer with everyone from soul singer Luther Vandross and pianist Herbie Hancock to guitarist George Benson and Miles Davis, composing and producing the trumpeter’s late period classic Tutu (Warner Bros., 1986)—has been releasing solo albums since 1983, but it was with The Sun Don’t Lie (PRA, 1993) and Tales (PRA, 1994) that the bassist/bass clarinetist established a modus operandi that has served him well in the ensuing decades. Renaissance fits comfortably within Miller’s overall discography, with plenty of the cornerstones upon which he’s built his audience, but there are some differences as well…and, in this case, that’s a very good thing.

As undeniably talented a player as he is—hundreds, if not thousands of recording sessions as a sideman can’t be wrong—Miller’s penchant for making overly bass-heavy albums has, to some extent, begun to render his own records a little too predictable. Still, his records are always profoundly deep in the groove department, with Miller quite possibly the funkiest bassist to emerge from the Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius camps of the 1970s. There’s still plenty of groove on Renaissance, and still plenty of room for Miller’s irrepressible virtuosity, but the writing is broader, the arrangements more instrumentally balanced and, even though there are a few guests, he’s largely working with a stable core group that includes keyboardist Federico Gonzales Peña and saxophonist Alex Han, both of whom appeared on Miller’s recent A Night In Monte Carlo and the also-live Tutu Revisited, both released in 2011 on the Dreyfus imprint.

Guitarist Adam Rogers, appearing on half the album, and singer Gretchen Parlato, who contributes wordless vocals alongside Ruben Blades on the lovely Brazilian-informed ballad “Setembro (Brazilian Wedding Song)"—one of six covers that also includes an impressive and moving a cappella closer by Miller, the Jackson Five hit, "I’ll Be There,” paying tribute to the late Michael Jackson—are surprise participants, but suggest that Miller’s far more attuned to what’s going beyond his usual circles than might be expected. And that’s also a very good thing.

It’s a more diverse program than usual that, amongst its seven Miller originals, includes the dark ballad, “Gorée (Go-ray),” a gorgeous feature for his bass clarinet work that kicks into double time for a more dramatic climax, and “Cee-Tee-Eye,” Miller’s visceral tribute to producer Creed Taylor’s influential CTI label of the 1960s and ‘70s. Elsewhere, a lengthy look at WAR’s hit, “Slippin’ Into Darkness” is equally booty-shaking, with strong solos from guest pianist Kris Bowers and Cleveland trumpeter Sean Jones (one of the set’s most impressive) before opening up for one of Miller’s staggering, lightning fast but always in-the-pocket features.

For those who’ve always appreciated Miller’s multifaceted talents but have grown a little tired of the sameness of his recent solo recordings, Renaissance is a refreshing reminder that he’s as good a writer, a bassist and a producer as ever and, in a career now in its fourth decade and with a little better balance across the board, is still capable of making compelling music that’s as good as—or, in this case, even better than—either of those seminal mid-‘90s PRA dates.

Track Listing: Detroit; Redemption; February; Slippin' Into Darkness; Setembro (Brazlian Wedding Song); Interlude: Nocturnal Mist; Revelation; Mr. Clean; Goréee (Go-ray); CEE-TEE-EYE; Tightrope; I’ll Be There.

Personnel: Marcus Miller: bass, fretless bass (5), bass clarinet (5, 10), acoustic bass (5); Louis Cato: drums, djembé (3), conga (11); Kris Bowers: piano (1, 4, 12), Fender Rhodes (1, 11); Adam Agati: guitar (1, 7, 8, 11, 12); Alex Han: alto saxophone (1-12); Maurice Brown: trumpet (1, 3, 11), muted trumpet (4); Federico Gonzales Peña: Fender Rhodes (2, 5, 9), piano (2, 3, 5-8, 10); Adam Rogers: guitar (1, 4, 6, 9), acoustic guitar (2, 10); Sean Jones: trumpet (2, 4, 6, 9); Gretchen Parlato: vocals (5); Ruben Blades: vocals (5); Ramon Yslas: percussion (4, 5, 7, 8); Bobby Sparks: organ (4, 6, 9), clavinet (9); Paul Jackson, Jr.: guitar (11); Dr. John: vocals (12).

Record Label: Concord Music Group | Style: Funk/Groove

 

Marcus Miller

An album entitled Renaissance is long overdue for the widely acclaimed Renaissance Man Marcus Miller. In among the most enviable careers in music, Miller is a two-time Grammy-winner and the composer/producer of ten critically acclaimed and genre-defying albums (seven studio and three live). Even the most devoted follower may be astonished to realize that Renaissance is only his eighth studio project since his 1983 debut, Suddenly, considering the abundance of occasions Miller’s name has appeared within album credits and that he has dazzled with performances, compositions and productions – in the company of some of the world’s most respected and accomplished players and superstars – from the mid-`70s to the present.

As a multi-instrumentalist, Marcus is highly proficient as a keyboardist, clarinetist/bass clarinetist and, primarily, as a world-renowned electric bassist, topping critics' and readers' polls for three decades. His résumé as an A-list player brims with over 500 recording credits as a sideman on albums across the spectrum of musical styles: rock (Donald Fagen and Eric Clapton), Jazz (George Benson, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Sample, Wayne Shorter and Grover Washington, Jr.), pop (Roberta Flack, Paul Simon and Mariah Carey), R&B (Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan), hip hop (Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg), blues (Z.Z. Hill), new wave (Billy Idol), smooth jazz (Al Jarreau and Dave Koz) and opera (collaborations with tenor Kenn Hicks and soprano Kathleen Battle).

As a film music pro, Miller rose from writing the go-go party classic “Da Butt” for Spike Lee’s “School Daze” to becoming the go-to composer for 20+ films (from the documentary “1 Love” to the animated children’s fable “The Trumpet and The Swan” to the Eddie Murphy/Halle Berry classic “Boomerang”).

As a producer, writer and player, he was the last primary collaborator of jazz legend Miles Davis, contributing the composition and album “Tutu” to the canon of contemporary jazz music. The breadth of his collaborative talents were best showcased in his work with the late, great soul man Luther Vandross, contributing to well over half of his albums as a producer, composer and/or player on a string of hits capped by “Power of Love/Love Power” for which Marcus won his first Grammy, 1991’s R&B Song of the Year.

And starting with David Sanborn’s 1980 album Hideaway and its follow-up Voyeur (for which the alto sax giant won a Grammy performing Marcus' composition “All I Need is You”), Marcus not only left an indelible mark on Sanborn’s distinctive sound, he laid the often-copied blueprint for the coolest of contemporary jazz sounds.

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