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Marcus Miller at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, 5/5/12

The funk bass maestro and a showstopping band deliver a powerhouse set

Marcus Miller pays tribute to Miles at Umbria Jazz 2011

After saxophonist Chris Potter kicked off the Cheltenham Jazz Festival weekend with a lunchtime concert of chamber-suite jazz, bass boss Marcus Miller delivered a raucous climax to Saturday night. Dominating centre stage at the circus-style Big Top, the funk bassist was flanked by a spirited young band with a sack of serious tunes. Miller, arguably the best electric bassist in the business-having played with everyone from Miles Davis to Aretha Franklin, Herbie Hancock to Frank Sinatra-did not disappoint in Cheltenham and gave one of the stand-out performances of the entire festival.

The band’s high-energy show lasted for an intense 90 minutes and succeeded in transcending the showy posturing you would expect from a superstar funk gig. Sure, there were prodigiously fast solos, rousing climaxes, distorted electric guitar solos and crunching drum breaks, but these aspects were tempered by restraint, sophistication, progressive harmonies and the occasional surprise (at one point Miller whipped out a bass clarinet for a brief, haunting interlude).

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