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Marcus Miller: Marcus

The king of slap bass applies his golden thumb and Grammy-winning-producer’s sensibility to a collection of originals and pop covers on his seventh outing as a leader. While showcasing stellar vocal turns by pop singers Corinne Bailey Rae (on Deniece Williams’ 1976 soul classic “Free”), Lalah Hathaway (on the sexily grooving “Ooh”) and Keb’ Mo’ (their earthy, co-penned “Milky Way”), the bassist-producer also unleashes his inimitable chops on hard-hitting instrumentals like the Indian-flavored “Blast” (with Marcus himself supplying the sitar parts) and definitive low-end vehicles like “Funk Joint,” “Pluck” and “Strum.” He also turns in a moving rendition of the Broadway tune and oft-covered jazz standard “When I Fall in Love,” on which his mysterious-sounding bass clarinet initially carries the poignant melody before he breaks loose with some potent Jaco-esque fretless bass work. And he even delves into the world of poetry slams on “‘Cause I Want You,” featuring spoken-word artist Shihan Van Clief.

Elsewhere, Miller and his crew-drummer Poogie Bell, keyboardist Bobby Sparks, saxophonist Keith Anderson and trumpeter Patches Stewart-turn in savvy covers of Miles Davis’ catchy ’80s anthem “Jean Pierre” (which the bassist originally played alongside Miles back in the day), Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” and Tower of Power’s “What Is Hip?,” the latter featuring David Sanborn on alto sax and Chester Thompson on organ. The outstanding French harmonica player Gregoire Maret, a member of Miller’s current touring band and former member of the Pat Metheny Group, is prominently featured on “When I Fall in Love,” “Strum” and “Jean Pierre.” Which just goes to show that Marcus has a keen eye for talent in addition to being an accomplished producer and remarkable bassist.

Originally Published