Interview: Marcus Miller

JL: Marcus, first of all, thank you for taking the time to speak with me this afternoon about your latest recording, Marcus. How do you decide when it’s time to enter the studio to record a new project?

MM: Well, for me, because I’ve got so many things going on, the way I decide to start a new one is when I’m finished with the last one. It takes me so long to finish a project because I’m doing movies, I’m all over the world, on the road, so I really have to start early, and it takes me about a year to put it all together.

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Concord Gets the Word Out

John Luciano says that Concord Records is “about the only record company supporting jazz in a big way these days (thank God for an independent label).” The label distributes music from Heads Up (home of too numerous to mention contemporary jazz acts), Peak Records (home to a good number of contemporary jazz artists), Stretch Records (Chick Corea’s label), and others. The best-selling saxophonists in smooth jazz are on their roster – Kenny G and Boney James. The best thing about the label is that they successfully market their recordings. You can see and hear them – often on display – at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and other popular retailers who sell music. Their press releases are actually picked up by the press. A press release for Marcus Miller’s latest, Marcus, strives to promote the artist in addition to the recording, stating that he isn’t the “household name he should be.” Like John L. wrote in his review, I also haven’t paid attention to Kenny G for about 15 years but, due to media promotion, I know his new release is Latin-influenced. With the abundance of ways people can get news today, getting the word out where the greatest number of people can read it is difficult. Given that Concord is an independent label and no doubt has a tiny staff for jazz promotion, it’s all the more admirable. Congratulations to Concord’s team(s) for helping to keep contemporary jazz in the public eye.

Review: Tom Scott – Cannon Re-Loaded

Always a fan of Tom Scott’s, I’ve been waiting for this release for a while. Although when his name is mentioned, most contemporary jazz fans think of Tom Scott’s releases such as LA Express, New York Connection, Apple Juice, or any number of the outstanding recordings he did while on GRP. But there were two, now with this release, three recordings where that unmistakable saxophone voice can be heard in a more traditional (notice I didn’t say straight-ahead) setting; 1992’s Born Again, BeBop United from 1996 and now, Cannon Re-Loaded. Joining Scott on this collection of tunes associated with the late great Cannonball Adderley are Terence Blanchard, George Duke, Marcus Miller, Steve Gadd, and Nancy Wilson. This is a pretty straightforward tribute. The players all sound very relaxed and the arrangements are excellent. It’s encouraging to see Tom Scott on the new release list and I give kudos to Concord for ‘carrying the torch’ while the ‘majors’ have burned their houses down to the ground. One last note, it’s nice to hear Terence Blanchard in a more contemporary setting. Here’s hoping he steps into the genre a bit more.

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Review: Jaco Pastorius Big Band – Word of Mouth Revisited

A scenario I’d like to see at the 2004 Grammy Awards ceremony: The Grammy returns to honoring jazz during its primetime special. Some of modern jazz’s best known bassists are playing a tribute to Jaco Pastorius. After thunderous applause, the award for Best Large Ensemble Album is announced. The winner: The Jaco Pastorius Big Band – Word of Mouth Revisited.

Word of Mouth Revisited covers Jaco’s compositions from his early days with conductor/arranger Peter Graves’ orchestra to his work with Weather Report and Word of Mouth. There’s an unreleased bass recording of Jaco himself on one of his favorite Herbie Hancock compositions “Wiggle Waggle.” It was recorded in the late 70s and the current Jaco Big Band plays the rest of the parts. This fourteen-piece big band is tight. I can’t say enough about the crispness of their sound. It’s easily the best big band I’ve heard in some time. The thirteen arrangements – by Graves (who hired Jaco in 1971 for his orchestra), Larry Warrilow (Jaco?s longtime friend and collaborator), and Jaco are excellent.

Then there is the who’s who of bass players: Marcus Miller, Christian McBride, Jimmy Haslip, Victor Wooten, Victor Bailey, Gerald Veasley, Richard Bona, and Jaco’s nephew, David Pastorius all contribute to this recording. It goes without saying that the rhythm on this CD is unbelievable. The bassists obviously seem inspired and actually seem to exceed their already formidable skills. Drummer Mark Griffith deserves special recognition for his excellent work on driving the tempo. Griffith is a standout on a CD where every single musician is worthy of note.

Whether you know everything Jaco or not, Word of Mouth Revisited is a release any modern jazz fan will want in his or her collection. It’s this year’s most welcome surprise.

News Bits: Marcus Miller, Stanley Jordan, Kirk Whalum

Marcus Miller is releasing what he calls an “Official Bootleg CD”. The Ozell Tapes features performances from Marcus’ 2002 tour with no remixing or editing. Having seen a show on the tour, I can guarantee you that finding this CD will be worth your while. It should already be out in Japan and will be in Europe and available for ordering online later this week. For more information and updates, check out Edi Weitz’s MarcusMiller.com site, where Marcus contributes frequently. . . Stanley Jordan‘s 1985 release, Magic Touch, was certified gold on August 27, meaning that it has sold over 500,000 copies. . . The jazz/gospel fusion that Kirk Whalum displayed on his underappreciated Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter One will be back for a second volume. The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter Two will be in stores on October 29. George Duke and Paul Jackson, Jr. return and are joined by Jonathan Butler. The CD was recorded live and KirkWhalum.com reports that a DVD/VHS version should be coming soon.