As one of the most influential, gifted, and hardest working bassmen in the business, Marcus Miller has built a reputation on a solid foundation of musical excellence. Anyone who has taken the time to read the production credits on his CD sleeves, or has had the pleasure of seeing him in concert, knows this superbly multi-talented artist "brings it", and that he also surrounds himself with the best musicians and vocalists around. He also sets the standard for partnering with some of the most outstanding songwriting and production collaborations of all-time, and he has the music catalog to back it up - from Luther Vandross and David Sanborn to Lonnie Liston Smith and Miles Davis, just to name a few. With all of these fine accolades under his belt, it's pretty remarkable how Marcus - an artist who has pretty much done it all musically - has raised the bar even higher with his newest release: MARCUS MILLER: A NIGHT IN MONTE-CARLO WITH THE MONTE-CARLO PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA, featuring ROY HARGROVE AND RAUL MIDÓN. And if that isn't impressive enough, there's even a DJ in the band!
Consisting of some of his own compositions, one by Raul Midón, standards and classics, this ambitious and brilliant project - recorded live from the Monte Carlo Jazz Festival in November 2008 - finds Marcus' jazz-funk bass playing style complemented by a full orchestra, resulting in one unique and spectacular CD that will make you wonder why it took almost three years to release! However, after one listen beginning with the opening cut, "Blast" - a Marcus Miller composition that features a wonderful sax solo by bandmate, Alex Han and a great scratching solo from DJ Logic - you will be well on your way toward forgiveness because the CD only gets better from here, as each member brings their A-Game, contributing to its success. For instance, on the Miles Davis classic, "So What", other than the magnificent strings, Alex Han’s sax, DJ Logic's scratching and Marcus' bass, it's Poogie Bell's powerful beats and Federico Gonzalez Peña on keys that stand out strongly in this piece. The orchestra takes its one and only break on Raul Midón's, "State of Mind", which leaves just Marcus on bass and Raul on guitar and vocals to do their own funky thing. The audience members applauding at the part where the bass, guitar, and Raul's "trumpet" voicings become one, serve as co-signers that the performance is a spectacular one.
"I Loves You Porgy" is a classic that has been on Marcus' concert playlist for many years, but backed by the Philharmonic - along with Alex Han’s gorgeous soprano sax - the song takes on a whole new life of awesome beauty. Next up is the Marcus classic, "Amandla", which features Alex Han and Roy Hargrove going head-to-head on sax and trumpet, and a sweet fretless solo by Marcus. Roy Hargrove and his trumpet take the lead on the stirring standard, "I'm Glad There Is You", and the only exclamation I can muster at the moment is, "WOW!". The tempo kicks up with the medley, "O Mio Babbino Caro/Mas Que Nada", with Raul Midón on guitar with vocals and Roy Hargrove on trumpet. The call and response between Raul's trumpet voicings and Roy's real trumpet are great! Marcus' instrument of choice is the bass clarinet on "Your Amazing Grace”; it works so incredibly well with the orchestra weaving in and out of this Marcus Miller composition. Raul Midón adds vocals and Alex Han stretches out on sax. The last and bonus cut on the CD is the haunting Billie Holiday classic, "Strange Fruit", with Herbie Hancock on piano and Marcus on bass and all other instruments. It's the only cut on the CD that wasn't recorded live, but from Marcus' studio in LA. He describes this song best in his liner notes where he states that, "It's a very emotional piece." He's telling the honest truth.
This is the most stunning CD to come out almost three years late, but this well-kept secret - now revealed - was well worth the wait. If you are able, experience this timeless music with earphones on in order to catch and appreciate every amazing nuance. If you don't have earphones, a nice sound system will surely do. Whatever you do, ENJOY!
About the Writer
Holly Fountain is a music and concert enthusiast and an avid collector of vinyl and CD’s from the 60’s and '70s. In her spare time, she enjoys writing concert reviews in her own entertaining and unconventional style.