Marcus Miller: Silver Rain

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.