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Back Roads Beat

2007 North Sea Jazz Cruise Days 9-12: Land-ho! Causing Waves At The Festival

By Published: July 30, 2007
My favorite encounter of the weekend was a "busker" doing a one-man band thing outside the entrance leading to the parking lot. Jeff Silvertrust was playing typical showman schmaltz (i.e. "100 Ways To Get Bin Laden"), but riffling through several CDs and a DVD near his hat made it clear he's not living meal-to-meal on spare change. Also, as you may have guessed, North Sea doesn't let just anyone play in front—they issue invitations and make arrangements well in advance like any of the bands inside. (One of my favorites from a couple years ago, saxophonist Matt Cashdollar, then part of a group of friends in a new band they called The Madcap Four, now has a mass of free MP3s from various projects at www.mattcashdollar.com/music.html.)

Born in Chicago and now living in Belgium as the latest stop in a lengthy career alternating between the U.S. and Europe, sidemen on his albums include Archie Shepp, Sam Rivers, Sonny Fortune, Marc Copland, Avery Sharpe and many others. He's got free one-man band videos at his Web site, which also sells two of his many albums (I recommend 2002's Hip Knossis with many of the players just mentioned over One-Man Band) . In addition, using Google I found three YouTube videos of his one-man stuff where he does things like mix "Cantaloupe Island" with "Gilligan's island."

He's been making a living doing the one-man stint since 1980, playing piano with his left hand, trumpet with his right and percussion with his feet, plus other sounds interspaced where appropriate. But his music influences include legends like Clifford Brown, Sonny Rollins and Sun Ra, and currently leads a German quartet when not doing everything himself.

For cruisers, one of the bigger topics of conversation came on the last day when Miller hastily filled in for Amy Winehouse, "the sobriety challenged British singer (who) has canceled so many shows in the last month that bookies are actually placing odds on her showing up to her concerts" (to quote the site www.celebitchy.com"). Another site, www.celebrity-gossip.net, notes "the British songbird actually made it to the airport before deciding to nix the gig...She went so far as to check in for her flight and cleared security. And then she decided that she was too tired to travel. She announced that she was canceling the show, and returned to her home, due to 'exhaustion.'"

I didn't make the show, having seen Miller play many times during the cruise, but several people I talked to on the ship said it was another solid performance to end a long string of them. I also found a writeup by someone named Jeremy of Sheffield, England, who seems to be a knowledgeable and prolific poster at a forum called Incognito, which details the extent to which other major players showed up on the spur of the moment:

"Marcus Miller's Sunday set began exactly as it had done on Friday—the opener 'Blast' which I still don't rate although it's basically an insidious Asian riffs that gets into your brain and won't let go. Then he requested the audience's indulgence in allowing a repeat performance of 'Jean Pierre'—fair enough, a hint that the set would then head off in a different direction, which it did and how. The unmistakeable opening bars of 'Run For Cover' with Candy Dulfer hauled onto stage (her set had been rescheduled to follow Marcus'). Candy Dulfer is hugely popular in her native Holland—she's probably considered a relative lightweight in pure jazz terms but she's a terrific party guest and always looks great.

I'd already spotted another trumpeter just off stage with his distinctive shades so I knew it was about to get even better. But first Marcus introduced African guitarist Lionel Loueke to sing and perform presumably one of his own tunes—then Marcus and gang joined in, Roy Hargrove arrived on stage, and a beautiful African- tinged piece emerged. It was then that Marcus wished Amy well in her state of 'exhaustion', and called on DJ Logic to play something from the crates—'trying to make me go to re-hab!!!' The whole jam was totally enjoyable from down in front of stage. YouTube doesn't really convey the total crowd involvement but I love some of the comments about that clip.

The set ended with the bomb version of 'Come Together' with Kirk Whalum joining the line-up. Marcus seemed to be having a blast, the horn section + guests strode forwards and backwards playing in conga formation. The whole place was rockin'. I loved it—unforgettable. I don't know exactly how long Marcus had been given to bring this set together—but he'd pulled it off big time. The Master of All Trades. A great musician, a great organizer."


Host With The Most

His concerts and new album didn't wow me, but nobody performed better on this cruise than Marcus Miller.


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