Marcus Miller was still in his mother’s womb when his future mentor Miles Davis was recording “Kind Of Blue” with Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly (Marcus’ cousin) and Paul Chambers, the future idol of our soon-to-be-born bassplayer who first caused his (vocal) chords to vibrate on June 14th in Brooklyn, New York.
By now, little Marcus was dancing in front of his TV, watching the Jackson 5. He was the same age as the youngest and most gifted of them, Michael. He didn’t know it yet, but one day he’d be playing one of his songs on the bass, I’ll Be There. While Marcus was growing up in the Jamaica neighbourhood of Queens, NY, he started by blowing into a recorder, and then a bass clarinet, which remains one of his favourite instruments. But from the day he picked up an electric bass, he would never put it down.
Although much more talented than average, Marcus perfects his technique, playing over and over the legendary intro of Hair, a funk-manifesto propelled by the earthquake-bass of Larry Graham, the master of slap. In those days, young Marcus was listening just as passionately to Robert “Kool” Bell from Kool & The Gang; James Jamerson, “Mister Bass” at Motown’s studios; Rocco Priesta, the man who patented groove with Tower Of Power; Gary King, who was playing bass with Grover Washington, Jr.; and Stanley Clarke, whose first, eponymous LP went straight onto Marcus’ turntable in 1975.
At the same time as he was learning to play Jaco Pastorius’ first album by heart, Marcus started hanging out at recording studios in the Big Apple. The great names in soul, jazz and pop were quick to snatch him up: this versatile youngster was a virtuoso who could decipher any score they put in front of him… But Marcus was already looking much further ahead than the neck of his bass. His attractive melodies and his producing-talents seduced musicians of all genres: Lonnie Liston Smith, David Sanborn, Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, and later Boz Scaggs, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Take 6, Wayne Shorter.
Miles Davis had been holed up in his New York apartment for five years. He was brooding, and hardly touched his trumpet. But the phoenix finally rose from his ashes… The young bassist in his new band was making an impression on the crowds, and people could finally put a face to the name they’d seen so often on album-sleeves: Marcus Miller! Five years later 1986] Marcus wrote and produced “Tutu”, the trumpeter’s great last classic. In 1989, Marcus composed the poignant Mr. Pastorius in homage to his hero, two years after his tragic passing. Miles, touched by the solar beauty of that tribute’s melody, agreed to record it. Emotion.
“The Sun Don’t Lie”, Marcus Miller’s first instrumental album, brilliantly launched his second career. A born catalyst with a gift for revealing new talents, Marcus had matured as a musician; sure of his art, he had become a fully-fledged leader. Numerous world tours had given him an increasingly wide audience who found in Marcus Miller a charismatic figure, a generous musician who was both a natural player and collaborator and an authentic creator.
After two Grammy® Awards, nine albums six in the studios and three “live” came “Renaissance”; true to its title, it opened a new chapter in the life of Marcus Miller. Marcus now embodies jazz history, the traditional and the contemporary. As for “Afrodeezia” his first Blue Note opus, it reflects his new aspirations as an ambassador and messenger of the great black music forms with his stamp as always, that contagious musicality, that unique groove and that instantly recognizable bass sound, often imitated, never equalled. Today, in 2015, let there be no doubt: the adventure is only beginning.