It's been more than four years since James Brown
, the "hardest working man in show business," departed this Earth for an ethereal stage, time enough to anoint a successor. Bassist Marcus Miller deserves considerationa tribute that would, no doubt, put a smile on the face of the Godfather of Soul. After all, a typical year for the virtuosic bassist includes months of global touring (he just returned from a tour that took him to five continents, featuring his unforgettable '80s Warner Bros. collaborations with trumpeter Miles Davis
, 1985's Tutu
and 1989's Amandla
); recording with his own band or with SMV - Stanley, Marcus, Victor
, the monster bass triumvirate; and work with countless others as an in-demand sideman, producing CDs, conducting orchestrasand, of course, being the featured husband and father of the Miller clan.Live in Monte Carlo
, offers incontrovertibly funky and swingin' evidence of Miller's broad and prodigious musical skills. The CDout in early 2011 in the U.S. after an earlier and successful European releasefinds Miller and his working band joined by several illustrious guests, including Herbie Hancock
, Roy Hargrove
and the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra.
The recording opens with "Blast," a Grammy
-nominated Miller composition, previously heard on his highly acclaimed Marcus
(Concord, 2008). After a swinging, finger snappin' sitar-like Hindu rhythm, performed by keyboardist Federico Pena, Miller's electric bass seriously funks things up enough to hip even the squarest listener. Youthful alto sax phenom, Alex Han
, blows a fiery solo, and Miller's arrangement, with the orchestra playing in unison against the soloists, maximizes the power of his riff.
Purists may cringe, but Miller's modern, funk-infused arrangement of the jazz standard, "So What"not to mention his use of turntablist DJ Logic
's scratching, would indubitably please the bassist's former employer, Miles Davis. In spite of contemporary critics' harsh reactions to Davis' electronic rock adventures back in the day, the "man with the horn" often made crystalline clear his artistic compulsion to keep his music fresh and new. Miller also eloquently covers another tune famously recorded by Davis, George Gershwin
and Ira Gershwin
s "I Loves You, Porgy," his soulful bass crying out the pain of lost love.
Trumpet master Roy Hargrove blows a love-inspiring version of the standard, "I'm Glad There Is You," with enough tenderness and romance to make lovers out of strangers. Miller blows a soul-penetrating bass clarinet, in poignant duet with piano master Herbie Hancock
, on Billie Holiday
's iconic "Strange Fruit." Their sensitive, sonic collaboration not only conjures up images of African-American suffering in the Jim Crow South, but of all human suffering.
For this live recording, Miller put in some hard work playing, composing and arranging the musiceven conducting the Monte Carlo Orchestra. Truly a swinging, hard-working and funky renaissance family man.