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May 2005

Marcus Miller
Silver Rain
E1 Music

Not too many musicians can cover Beethoven, Stevie Wonder and Duke Ellington with equal dexterity and inventiveness, but Marcus Miller can. On Silver Rain (Koch), the multi-instrumentalist covers a great deal of ground stylistically, but what firmly ties the tunes together is his familiar funk-rooted bass playing. Miller was influenced by a powerful Bob Marley performance when he wrote the reggae-inflected title track with Eric Clapton, and the lyrics were inspired by the Langston Hughes poem "In Time of Silver Rain." Miller offers a bluesy interpretation of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," uses multiple overdubs with numerous instruments on Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" and evokes Stevie Wonder on the harmonica-embellished original "Behind the Smile." Prince's "Girls and Boys" is a funk workout, complete with loopy vocals from Macy Gray. Elsewhere, Miller and saxophonist Kirk Whalum groove along on a contemporary take on Wonder's "Boogie on Reggae Woman," which features turntable scratch effects. Clocking in at more than 75 minutes, Silver Rain boasts a lot to listen to, but every minute is enjoyable.

Originally published in May 2005
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