Marcus Miller ‘Afrodeezia’ (Blue Note) 4/5

marcus-millerThe multi-talented bassist, composer and arranger Marcus Miller has graced some of the finest recordings of black music in the last thirty-five years and his CV reads like the who’s who of musicians from Miles Davis and Lonnie Liston Smith through to Aretha Franklin and Luther Vandross. However, his solo albums have sometimes been something of a hit and miss affair with moments of great virtuosity, yet all to often too stylistically diverse whole. Which is where this latest album differs markedly since as a UNESCO goodwill representative, Miller has focussed on global issues and the music within ‘Afrodeezia’ is a reflection of that panoramic vision of humanity expressed in musical terms and a heartfelt commitment to the humanitarian cause at that. The result is a wonderful trip through global musicalia with an-all star cast of guest including pianist Robert Glasper, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, blues guitarist Keb’ Mo and vocalist Lalah Hathaway. To ensure the music maintains a steady groove, Miller’s core band is featured throughout and they help greatly to solidify the project. Recorded in variety of exotic locations while on tour from Morocco and New Orleans to Paris and Rio de Janeiro, nonetheless works as a tightly knit. The world beats flavours are no better illustrated than on the wonderful ‘Hylife’ that has elements of Afro-Beat and Juju in its drum pattern with an underlying rhythm that echoes the classic ‘Goin’ back to my roots’. An updated and thoroughly funky ‘Papa was a rolling stone’ indicates the connection that Miller has capable of making between soul and jazz idioms throughout his career while the breezy Lain-flavoured wordless vocals and fender number ‘We were there’ allows the leader the opportunity to solo on fender bass as only he knows how. South African gospel and Hammond organ combine effectively on ‘Preacher’s kid (song for William)’ on which Miller performs on bass clarinet. There are echoes of the Miller/Miles Davis ‘Tutu’ album in the use of brass ensemble overall and percussion is especially prominent on pieces such as ‘B’s river’ with the trademark plucked bass for which Miller is revered. By some distance Marcus Miller’s most consistent album in two decades and likely to be his most successful if given the full support of radio and media.

Tim Stenhouse