Thursday, February 17, 2011

Marcus Miller: A Night in Monte Carlo

Concord Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: A Night in Monte Carlo

Marcus Miller is best known as an electric bassist, composer, arranger and producer, but he also plays the piano, clarinet and bass clarinet. He was performing professionally and writing songs by age 13; just two years later, he was working regularly in New York City as a first-call musician. His discography is enormous: He has contributed to more than 500 albums that feature many of the greats of the music and entertainment world (Miles Davis, David Sanborn, Wayne Shorter, Luther Vandross and others).

A Night In Monte Carlo, a commissioned concert performed there in 2008, features Miller with his basic quartet, guest artists Roy Hargrove and Paul Midon, and L’Orchestre Philharmonique De Monte-Carlo (a 40-piece symphony). Several musical genres are represented, including opera, spiritual and various forms of jazz. "Blast," a Miller composition, presents fusion/funk in a full orchestral setting; "So What" and another Miller tune, "Amandla," are present for Miles Davis fans. "I Loves You Porgy," from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, is a highlight: a beautiful ballad that is seldom heard in a full orchestral jazz format.

Although not part of the original concert, Billy Holliday’s classic "Strange Fruit" is included here as a bonus track: It, all by itself, is worth the price of the album.

This release demonstrates how great jazz can be found in many formats.

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