Now, I’ve heard this album a couple of times before, but I’m hearing it once again. That just goes to show how much like this music. It’s a bit of R n’ B, a bit of Funk and a bit of Jazz. All the Marcus Miller trademarks are here: fantastic production, intelligent arrangement, slap bass that sings (!) and a very, very cool vibe.
That done, let’s get on, shall we? The first track is my favourite Miller track, and one probably universally recognized as Miller‘s finest work, “Power”. The song starts with a totally sex-oriented bass hook, and the melodies and solos just flow from there. I’ll put a video of the performance of this song from the Montreax Jazz Festival somewhere in this review. Please check it out.
With Miller being steeped in the Jazz and R n’ B tradition, the beats are very important…… sometimes a bit too important, I guess. For instance, I found the beats on “Lonnie’s Lament” unpleasantly loud. Alright, it might have to do with the fact that I like to have the volume at a little less than 30000 decibels, but still, I think it could have been done in a toned down fashion. This is a problem I faced again in “Burning Down the House”. Speaking of the beats, they are extremely varied, mirroring Millers’ Jazz, Funk, R n’ B roots. It’s all wonderfully done and arranged. Jazzy pianos hide amongst cool laid back R n’ B rhythms, with some strings here and with a very sophisticated feel in general. All of this is -of course- overlaid with the the gorgeously snappy singing tone of his Fender Bass. It’s totally a signature effect, giving Miller a unique voice, which is all any musician can aspire to have. This man knows what he’s doing; no wonder he won the Grammy for this album. Bloody well deserved.
You see, the reason why Miller is this way is because unlike other Bass virtuosos like Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten or Jaco, the production part of music wasn’t something that he learnt as a part of an evolution; it was a part of his entire approach to music right from the beginning. This makes him and his sound unique in the now 59 year history of the Electric Bass. It’s very inspiring. Speaking of Jaco, I remember reading on his Wikipedia page, which said that Miller was earlier accused of being imitative of Jaco. Setting aside his trusty fretted Fender funk machine, Miller steps up for inquisition on his interpretation of “Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat” with a fretless Jazz bass. I’ll tell you this; no fretless bassist today can straightfacedly say that he is not influenced by Jaco. So I would discharge Miller of any such accusation. His fretless soloing isn’t really his forte, but he certainly isn’t a Jaco imitator.
What about the rest of it? Well, it’s good, but not as much as some would have you believe. Much of the rest is jazzy stuff, with the best of the latter half being “Your Amazing Grace”, which has these fascinating electronic beats which never should have worked, but somehow do. Some tracks are not very strong, but excellent production carries all of them. I believe in addition to the very strong tracks that already exist on this album, it was this high quality production that won Miller his coveted Grammy. And as you might have already guessed by now, this sounds right.
– El Bajista
More MILLER reviews HERE.
More R n’ B stuff HERE.