The Renaissance man of the jazz world has a new album
By Patrick Patterson
If there were a better way to summarize the spirit of Jazz, encarnate, than in the trials and tribulations of one, Marcus Miller, it would be one hell of an achievement. His career has included such legendary gigs as providing melody (in the form of backup and composition) to the magic of giants in the profession of being straight-up-smoov, Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, and Grover Washington Jr. among them, as well as serving up soulful slap bass for the SNL crew, making this man’s chops a national treasure. His peers are a veritable who’s who of the entertainment industry, ranging from Eric Clapton on stage, to Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson behind the scenes, having blessed their work with his scores on multiple occasions. In the run of his solo career, a delicious mix of performance and production, his style has come to embody da platonic funk, acting as an inspiration for such wizards as Victor Wooten. His work continues the tradition of badass, bass-guitar boogie, founded, axe-in-hand by these immortal men’s sweat, blood, and diamond teardrops. The greats, of course, were those whose horizons never stopped at gut-splitting riffs; theirs were the quills whose poetry was written onto the divine velum of jazz, exemplified, close to perfectly, by Miller’s new album Renaissance.
The advantage of that heavenly medium is its ability to successfully, and rather beautifully, rearrange classics which have held our attention in their own right. Marcus Miller’s newest album is a testament to that, where reinterpretations of such reggae anthems as “Slippin’ Into Darkness” and tear-jerkingly groovy ballads as “I’ll Be There” are standouts, where the whole anthology exudes talent. Indeed, this DJ’s assumption of the latter as a track worthy of dedication took root magnificently, adding one to the romance hall of fame. Overall, the album is blessed with a chill, innovative, and balanced vibe of palatably moving tracks, as mentioned, with canny demonstrations of individual skill and arrangement. “Mr. Clean” (you’ll forgive the pun) is spotless, bringing to mind the upbeat groove of Jaco Pastorius or John Scofield, only much… much heavier on the bass. This, my friends, is not a bad thing. Five stars from me, overall, with the recommended tracks serving only to whet the appetite for further exploration.
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