Music

Marcus Miller: Marcus

Claudrena N. Harold

A disc with the vibe of an extended jam session among friends who appreciate each other’s company.


Marcus Miller

Marcus

Label: Concord
US Release Date: 2008-03-04
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Not too many bassists have resumes as impressive or extensive as Marcus Miller’s. Over his 30 year career, Miller’s released his own material, scored films, and produced records for artists as diverse as jazz icon Miles Davis, soul crooner Luther Vandross, and saxophonist David Sanborn. To peruse Miller’s vast discography is to be amazed not only by his prodigious output, but his versatility. Here’s a man responsible for one of the biggest jams of the 1980s, E.U.’s “Da Butt”, as well as beautifully crafted jazz albums like Wayne Shorter’s High Life and Kenny Garrett’s Standard Language.

Frequently overlooked in discussions of Miller’s artistic contributions is the strength of his own solo projects. None of his recordings have wowed me from start to finish, I must confess, but they all contain moments which validate my opinion of him as an extremely gifted musician with an expansive musical vocabulary. Listening to Miller’s latest release, Marcus, reinforced my positive assessment of his talents. An amalgamation of pop, jazz, R&B, and funk, the disc has the vibe of an extended jam session among friends who appreciate each other’s company. Invited guests include blues man Keb' Mo', David Sanborn, songstress Lalah Hathaway, newcomer Corrine Bailey Rae, keyboardist Bobby Sparks, the reliantly funky Bernard Wright, the always heart-felt Gregoire Maret, and actress Taraji P. Henson. Somewhat reflective of the eclectic line-up, Marcus doesn’t stay in one groove for long. Tempos, textures, and moods shift as one guest star replaces another.

A constant throughout the album’s changes, however, is Miller’s superb bass playing. Surely fans of the slap-bass technique will salivate over the funky goodness of “Blast”, “Funk Joint”, “Strum”, and “Pluck”, but the playing on “When I Fall in Love” and “Jean Pierre” hit me the hardest. Sparse yet substantive, “Jean Pierre” journeys back to Miller’s days with his most famous teacher, Miles Dewey Davis. Out in front for most of the track, Miller’s bass exudes the type of elegant funkiness one always heard in Davis’ music, from his cover of Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance” to the spicy “Back Seat Betty.” Miller’s performance on “When I Fall in Love” is equally impressive. One not only hears his mastery of his instrument, but you feel his spirit. His intimate call and response with Gregoire Maret moves with the kind of transcendental beauty one finds in the work of another brilliant bassist, Meshell Ndegeocello.

Not sure what kind of airplay the aforementioned tracks will receive, but more than likely Marcus Miller’s covers of Robin Thicke’s recent smash “Lost Without You”, Stevie Wonder’s classic “Higher Ground”, and Deniece Williams’ “Free” will get significant spins on smooth jazz stations.

Even though these songs are far from innovative in my opinion, one hopes their accessibility brings greater attention to an otherwise solid album.

7

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image