Review : Marcus Miller - A Night in Monte-Carlo
PopmattersListening to “I Loves You, Porgy” from Marcus Miller’s A Night in Monte-Carlo is enough to twist a person’s head into pretzels. Here is an accomplished arrangement for full orchestra and jazz group on a Gershwin classic. So where is Diana Krall’s vocal? Wait, is the lead being played on fretless electric bass in a style associated with Jaco Pastorius? And is the long bass solo that consumes the song incredibly muscular and hip, making it clearly the work of Marcus Miller, the great bassist long associated with Miles Davis, who loved this tune?
So this live recording is a kind of orchestral/fusion/classic jazz thing, and that’s either music to your ears—a recording that utterly ignores boundaries and can be funky one moment and swinging the next—or it is a bit confusing, the work of a brilliant polymath musician who does his thing with little regard for genre or stylistic consistency.
Marcus Miller is not confused about this, however. He is one of the players associated with “smooth jazz” who has never really been reliant on it to pay his bills. He has produced albums and written many hits for Luther Vandross, and he has done the same for Miles Davis. He has played with Paul Simon and he wrote “Da Butt” for Spike Lee’s School Daze. Miller plays authentic funk from Jamaica, Queens, New York and he has played with Dizzy Gillespie. When he plays Gershwin, it’s because he loves it and has something interesting to say on it....full text
GuardianBass guitarist Marcus Miller, a virtuoso and composer with a sophisticated ensemble sense, was a key figure in Miles Davis's late-career Tutu and Amandla albums of 1986 and 89. Miller came to last year's London jazz festival with some Tutu revisits, in the process introducing the UK to a fiery young soul/bop alto saxophonist in Alex Han; but this live set from the 2008 Monte Carlo jazz festival is a bigger-canvas affair, featuring Miller, Han, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, scat and soul singer Raul Midón, and a symphony orchestra. The fitfully vigorous material includes some elegant Hargrove between the signature clashing synth chords on Amandla; a funky So What; sonorously humming Miller bass guitar on I Loves You Porgy; and a biting Han alto break on Amazing Grace, somewhat undermined by the cheesy Midón vocal. A softly swung Strange Fruit, despite Miller's eloquent bass clarinet and Herbie Hancock guesting on piano, feels faintly frivolous. Miller's many crossover fans will go for this, but jazzers might baulk at Midón's soul vocals, and a one-size-fits-all feel to the leader's solos....full text
NotrebleHaving and developing an individual voice is so important in music. Michael Jackson, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter: we recognize all of them within a few notes. And Marcus Miller is someone with an instantly recognizable style on bass; he has found his own voice in music in his composition, arrangement and production. His music sounds natural and flows freely. Everything grooves in a soulful, accessible way and the overwhelming impression is that of a musician fabulously enjoying music making.
A Night in Monte Carlo is a recording of a special live concert. It was commissioned for November 29, 2008 in Monaco and featured Miller with his band, his arrangements for the Monte Carlo symphony orchestra and special guests, trumpeter Roy Hargrove and singer Raul Midón.
The concert opens in spectacular manner with the Middle Eastern-tinged “Blast” from the bassist’s 2008 release, Marcus. Miller lays down some serious slap and the orchestra lines add depth and atmosphere before Alex Han comes in with some wailing alto saxophone. The rhythmic cushion laid down by Miller mixed with the ever-wonderful Poogie Bell on drums grooves menacingly. DJ Logic adds a layer of percussion with turntables and Miller takes the tune out with some joyous slapped bass.
“So What” has Gil Evans’ exquisite (and rarely played) introduction scored by Miller for orchestra. Miller plays the famous bass theme with the orchestra answering over simple, funky drumming. Federico Gonzalez Peña on piano and Miller (at length) on fretted Jazz get to stretch out over the relaxed funky jazz groove and tasteful orchestrations.
“State of Mind” opens with Midón’s percussive and effervescent guitar and soulful vocals, and Miller joins with some splendid fretless grooving. Miller’s fretless is deep-toned and lush and played with nimble agility. The tune works particularly well as a duo performance, making an effective contrast with the tracks featuring full orchestration....full text
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