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April 2004

Marcus Miller/Michel Petrucciani
Dreyfus Night in Paris
Dreyfus Records

Recorded in the summer of 1994 for a special Dreyfus Night showcase at the Palais des Sports in the City of Lights, this live outing features an all-star ensemble stretching out on just three songs. And given the personnel-Michel Petrucciani on keyboards, Lenny White on drums, Bireli Lagrene on guitar, Marcus Miller on electric bass and Kenny Garrett on alto and soprano saxes-the sparks do tend to fly, particularly on Miller's brooding "Tutu," perhaps the most memorable and effective vehicle the bassist composed for his mentor Miles Davis. Garrett is particularly explosive and exploratory on soprano sax here while Lagrene adds some remarkably fluid, post-Benson six-string fireworks of his own. Miller further elevates the proceedings with his inimitable slap bass work and some slick two-handed technique.

The super group also tackles Miller's ode to Miles, "The King Is Gone," from his 1993 recording The Sun Don't Lie. Miller opens on bass clarinet in a sparse trio setting, with Petrucciani comping lightly on piano and White on brushes, before switching to electric bass and laying out his virtuosic chops over a swinging foundation. Petrucciani is particularly responsive in this swinging situation. Garrett doesn't enter until the seven-minute mark then blows sly, sinuous lines for nearly three minutes, at which point Lagrene takes over and proceeds to wail with unparalleled chops and uncanny nonchalance. They close out the concert in rousing fashion with Petrucciani's buoyant, samba-flavored "Looking Up," featuring some muscular alto sax work from Garrett.

While Petrucciani had previously played with drummer White (on 1990's The Manhattan Project for Blue Note), the pianist had never before played with either Lagrene, Miller or Garrett, which makes this 10-year-old document all the more rare.

Originally published in April 2004
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