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Marcus Miller: Laid Black (Blue Note)

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Cover of "Laid Black" by Marcus Miller
Cover of “Laid Black” by Marcus Miller

Marcus Miller’s Blue Note debut, 2015’s Afrodeezia, drew from the African diaspora, presenting a globetrotting musical mélange driven by his experiences acting as a UNESCO Artist for Peace and a spokesman for that organization’s Slave Route Project. This followup finds him firmly planted on U.S. soil, employing the sounds of modernity born at said route’s end. It’s both a consolidation of African-American ingenuity and a celebration of its manifold gifts to the world.

In liberally mixing aspects of R&B, trap, funk, and hip-hop with jazz, Miller manages to play up their commonalities while leveraging the originality and accessibility of each. Opening with “Trip Trap,” a number that’s both anthemic and club-friendly, he immediately taps into a central city spirit. Much of what follows—a cool-turned-scorching soul take on “Que Sera Sera” elevated by the fervent vocals of Selah Sue, a funk-rock summit with Trombone Shorty on “7-T’s,” the slickly grooving “Untamed”—explores that urbanity to the fullest.

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