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Marcus Miller: A Night in Monte-Carlo

Woodrow Wilkins By

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He's the man in the porkpie hat. Bassist, composer, arranger and producer Marcus Miller matches classical with jazz on A Night in Monte-Carlo, featuring L'Orchestre Philharmonique De Monte-Carlo.

Miller, a two-time Grammy Award-winner, has a diverse and vast discography as a leader, producer and sideman. Among his numerous credits are work with Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, Donald Fagen, Dizzy Gillespie, David Sanborn, Bob James and Al Jarreau.

The strings warm up the set, recorded during the 2008 Monte-Carlo Jazz Festival, in symphonic fashion, introducing Miles Davis' "So What." Miller and drummer Poogie Bell bring up the beat, signaling the rest of the orchestra to join in. Alto saxophonist Alex Han's solo—no pun intended—is one of the highlights. Hearing the full orchestra behind a funky jazz lead is a treat, as Miller delivers some of his signature slaps during his solo, supported mainly by Bell's rim shots.

Guitarist/vocalist Raul Midon sings lead on his own "State of Mind," a frenetic piece done without the orchestra. After his solo, trumpeter Roy Hargrove engages in a lively dialogue with Midon, trumpet and guitar shifting easily from harmonious duet to call-and-response, with Hargrove answering in scat-like fashion. Midon demonstrates range and precision, combining the skills of a jazz vocalist with those of an auctioneer.

A tranquil classical piece merges into a fiery Brazilian anthem with Miller accompanying the strings at the front end of Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro," with drums, percussion and brass signaling a quick segue into "Mas Que Nada." Voice and strings are in sync during the chorus but, underneath it all, Miller's bass line is hard-charging. Hargrove's solo morphs into a scat and guitar solo from Midon; the two then trading off, with Midon voice emulating a trumpet. Miller recaptures the energy and emotion first visited when he arranged and produced Jarreau's recording of "Mas Que Nada" in 1994, one of the more thrilling adaptations of the Jorge Ben classic.

Better-known as a bassist, Miller also plays bass clarinet on some of A Night in Monte-Carlo's tracks, while fellow Grammy winner Herbie Hancock sits in on the closing "Strange Fruit."

Track Listing: Blast!; So What; State of Mind; I Loves You Porgy; Amandla; I'm Glad There Is You; Medley: O Mio Babbino Caro / Mas Que Nada; Your Amazing Grace; Strange Fruit.

Personnel: Marcus Miller: bass, bass clarinet; Roy Hargrove: trumpet; Raul Midon: vocals, guitar; Alex Han: alto saxophone; DJ Logic: turntables; Federico Gonzalez Pena: piano, keyboards, percussion; Poogie Bell: drums; Herbie Hancock: piano (9); Orchestre Philharmonic De Monte-Carlo.

Title: A Night in Monte-Carlo | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Concord Music Group

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