(born on 1959)
An adept, highly recognized jazz bassist, Marcus Miller rose to prominence as a member of trumpeter Miles Davis' band of the 1980s, and piled up a long list of session credits while simultaneously launching his own career as a leader. Known for his fluid improvisational chops and inclination toward funky, contemporary-leaning jazz, Miller initially emerged in the 1970s as an in-demand session musician. By the time he joined Davis' group, he had already established a lucrative career playing with such luminaries as Lenny White, Grover Washington, Jr., Bobbi Humphrey, Lonnie Liston Smith, and others. Buoyed by his time with Davis on albums like 1981's The Man with the Horn and 1986's Tutu, he was able to embark on a solo career, coming into his own on albums like 1993's The Sun Don't Lie and 2008's Marcus. He also expanded his reach, moving into producing and composing for films like 2017's Marshall. Despite the many hats he has worn -- improviser, interpreter, arranger, songwriter, film music composer, bassist, multi-instrumentalist -- none of them have been put on as a whim. Never one to merely get his feet wet, Miller has been a utility player in the strongest and most prolific sense. Marcus Miller was a fixture as a performer in New York's jazz clubs before he was old enough to drive. Born in Brooklyn on June 14, 1959, and raised in nearby Jamaica, he knew how to play several instruments with ease by the time he entered his teenage years. His father, who directed a choir and played organ, had a profound impact upon his musical upbringing. Once he broke in with Humphrey and Smith, he gained steady work with the likes of Dave Grusin, Earl Klugh, Grover Washington, Jr., Chaka Khan, and Bob James. During 1981 and 1982, the in-demand musician went on the road with longtime personal hero Miles Davis and would end up working with him on several albums -- including Tutu and Music from Siesta -- after that. Throughout the '80s, '90s, and 2000s, Miller scattered several of his own albums throughout the constant pull of production and session work. His solo recordings were almost as diverse as his outside work; hybrids of smooth R&B, funk, and jazz peppered the majority of the albums, while 1993's The Sun Don't Lie and the following year's Tales (both issued through PRA) also incorporated sampling technology. Released in 2001, M2 won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. The Ozell Tapes: The Official Bootleg, released on Telarc in 2003, displayed his range as well as anything else bearing his handiwork; the live set incorporated originals, improvisation, and covers that extended from material originally recorded by Talking Heads and the Stylistics to John Coltrane. Silver Rain appeared in 2005. In 2007, Miller issued Free in Europe, while 2008 saw Marcus released globally; it was his debut for Concord Jazz. In 2009, Miller formed a touring band with Christian Scott on trumpet; they recorded Tutu Revisited, a wide-ranging tribute to Miles Davis, and it was released in Europe in 2011 as a CD/DVD package. Miller returned to the studio for 2012's Renaissance, an album that contained a vocal duet by Gretchen Parlato and Rubén Blades, as well as a guest spot by Dr. John. Miller was selected as a UNESCO Artist for Peace and also became spokesperson for the organization's Slave Route Project. Recording sessions took place in Africa, Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and the United States. The sessions featured a wide range of guests including Chuck D., Lalah Hathaway, Robert Glasper, Etienne Charles, Ambrose Akinmusire, Keb' Mo', Wah-Wah Watson, Mocean Worker, and Ben Hong. A pre-release single, "Hylife," was issued in February of 2015, and hit the top spot on several jazz charts. The album, Afrodeezia, followed in March. In 2018 he delivered Laid Black, which featured guest spots from Trombone Shorty, Peculiar, Jonathan Butler, and others.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Jazz - Released March 16, 2015 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France
Afrodeezia is bassist Marcus Miller's debut for Blue Note Records. Produced by the artist, the 11-track set features his core band -- saxophonist Alex Han, trumpeter Lee Hogans, pianist Brett Williams, guitarist Adam Agati, and drummer Louis Cato -- with an international list of guests. The music was inspired by Miller's work as a UNESCO artist for peace, and as a spokesperson for the Slave Route project. Afrodeezia is a masterful contemporary reflection of transcontinental rhythms and melodies that have migrated through the bodies and spirits of African slaves as they were transported to South America, the Caribbean, and the United States before refracting back across the globe in the contemporary era through jazz, R&B, and hip-hop. "Hylife," the set's first single, reflects the long reach of Ghana's popular style grafted on to contemporary jazz-funk with a host of Senegalese musicians on percussion and backing vocals. Lead vocals are provided courtesy of Alune Wade, the great Senegalese bassist. Despite its intense dancefloor appeal, the players' sophisticated rhythmic and harmonic interplay is ferocious. On "B's River," kora player Cherif Soumano and guest trumpeter Etienne Charles solo with Miller on gimbri, bass, and bass clarinet. "Preacher's Kid (Song for William H)" melds modern jazz and American and African gospel. The bassist performs on upright, clarinet, and piano; Cory Henry guests with a gorgeous organ solo as Lalah Hathaway delivers wordless vocals supported by Wade, Dakar's mezzo-soprano Julia Sarr, and Take 6's Alvin Chea. "We Were There" celebrates the example of George Duke and Joe Sample and how their love for Brazilian sounds transformed modern jazz. Robert Glasper's Fender Rhodes is a nice foil for Miller's dominant bassline. Hathaway's scat vocals are appended by a Brazilian chorus with percussion from Marco Lobo. The cover of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" features guitarists Wah-Wah Watson (who appeared on the Temptations' hit), and Keb' Mo', whose blues approach arcs the lineage to the Delta. Patches Stewart adds his NOLA trumpet playing to emphasize that city's R&B groove in the heart of Northern Soul. Rightfully, this jam is ruled by Miller's bassline, which pays homage to the original while revealing how it influenced everything in popular music that came afterward. "Son of Macbeth" is another monster groover that re-links calypso to contemporary jazz. Just as Robert Greenridge's steel pan drums made Grover Washington, Jr. and Bill Withers' "(Just) the Two of Us" so infectious, Greenridge appears to do the same here. "I Can't Breathe," with just Miller and Mocean Worker creating a wild meld of instrumental color, back Public Enemy's Chuck D in wedding hard funk, political hip-hop, and dance music, exhorting the listener to remember that the struggle for equality is not over. Miller's wide-angle view of jazz is extended further on the glorious Afrodeezia. It reveals in a sophisticated, exceptionally ambitious manner the labyrinthine interconnectedness of earlier sounds and rhythms -- which emerged from bondage and horrific suffering -- to new ones that bring the world joy. © Thom Jurek /TiVo