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A musician as versatile and in demand as MARCUS MILLER rarely has down time between projects. In fact, he is usually working on at least three at once. Marcus’ other focus, as well as his studio work and film scoring, has recently been TUTU REVISITED, an endeavor that began as a one-off concert in Paris to close the inaugural “We Want Miles” commemorative exhibit that bowed there in the summer of 2009. The title track of the album Tutu has since become one of jazz’s last classic compositions, instantly recognizable from its opening dramatic strikes. Since the song’s debut, it has been re-recorded by the likes of Al Jarreau & George Benson, The Manhattan Transfer, Cassandra Wilson, S.M.V. (Stanley Clarke, Miller, and Victor Wooten), and several “live” renditions by Marcus. But there has never been a look back at other songs from the seminal album on which Marcus showcased the raw beauty of Miles trumpet amid a sea of synthesizers, drum machines, and keyboards (all of which Miller played himself)…until now.
“To me, Tutu captured Miles negotiating his way through a world that was half man/half machine, and finding a way to bend that word to his will,” Marcus muses. “In my opinion, it is a pretty good representation of what the ’80s had to offer. When I was approached about revisiting that music in concert, I hesitated…because one thing universally understood about Miles is that he never looked back. Still, I was intrigued by the idea of saluting Miles and began to think of how I could present that music in a fresh context. I figured the best way to do that is with young musicians.”
After the first rehearsal where the young guns played the Tutu material practically note for note off the vinyl, Miller implored them to find their own voice within the music. And though Miller was a veteran of Davis’ early ’80s “comeback” tours – first working with him at age 21 on his The Man With The Horn LP – by the time of Tutu, he was not a member of the touring band. Now, Marcus gets to explore Tutu’s music live for the first time.
“Writing for Miles was nice because everything we did in that period he left his fingerprint on. It took me to another place and made me find sounds I wouldn’t have normally found. I was very inspired and could hear myself coming into my own. Miles recognized this, too, and told me, ‘Hey, you’re in that period! Recognize it and write as much as you can because these periods come and go…’ That was saying a lot because he had told Wayne Shorter (the saxophonist / prolific jazz composing genius for whom Miller produced High Life in 1995) the same thing two decades before me. After Miles gave me the benediction, I had a supreme level of confidence. I no longer cared what anyone thought of what I did. It freed me to just focus on making the best music I possibly can.” Miles also once stated, “Marcus is so hip and into the music that he even walks in tempo.” Ever to the beat of his own capricious and demanding drummer, Brooklyn-born bassist Marcus Miller is both a smooth walking weather vane for the future and a highly exalted keeper of the cool.
As a multi-instrumentalist, MARCUS MILLER is highly proficient as a keyboardist, clarinetist/bass clarinetist, and primarily as a world-renowned electric bassist, topping critics’ and readers’ polls for three decades. His résumé as an A-list player brims with over 500 recording credits as a sideman on albums across the spectrum of musical styles: rock (Donald Fagen and Eric Clapton), jazz (George Benson, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Sample, Wayne Shorter, and Grover Washington, Jr.), pop (Roberta Flack, Paul Simon, and Mariah Carey), R&B (Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan), hip hop (Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg), blues (Z.Z. Hill), new wave (Billy Idol), smooth jazz (Al Jarreau and Dave Koz), and opera (collaborations with tenor Kenn Hicks and soprano Kathleen Battle).
As a film music pro, Miller rose from writing the go-go party classic “Da Butt” for Spike Lee’s School Daze to becoming the go-to composer for 20+ films (from the documentary I Love to the animated children’s fable The Trumpet and The Swan to the Eddie Murphy/Halle Berry classic Boomerang).
As a producer, writer, and player, he was the last primary collaborator of jazz legend Miles Davis, contributing the composition and album Tutu to the canon of contemporary jazz music. The breadth of his collaborative talents were best showcased in his work with the late, great soul man Luther Vandross, contributing to well over half of his albums as a producer, composer, and/or player on a string of hits capped by “Power of Love/Love Power,” for which Marcus won his first Grammy, 1991’s R&B Song of the Year.
And starting with David Sanborn’s 1980 album Hideaway and its follow-up Voyeur (for which the alto sax giant won a Grammy performing Marcus’ composition “All I Need is You”), Marcus not only left an indelible mark on Sanborn’s distinctive sound, he laid the often-copied blueprint for the coolest of contemporary jazz sounds.
Style, soul, and intense professionalism have set Marcus Miller at the top of his game for three decades now. Marcus was born in 1959 and raised in a musical family that includes his father, William Miller (a church organist and choir director) and jazz pianist Wynton Kelly. By 13, Marcus was proficient on clarinet, piano, and bass guitar, and already writing songs. Two years later he was working regularly in New York City, eventually playing bass and writing music for jazz flutist Bobbi Humphrey and keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith. Miller soon became a top call session musician, gracing well over 500 albums, recording with musicians and in countries around the globe - from Frank Sinatra and Elton John to Bill Withers and LL Cool J.
After two R&B-leaning solo albums for Warner Bros. in the ’80s followed by co-leading The Jamaica Boys (with drummer Lenny White and singer Mark Stevens), Marcus took a hiatus then returned rejuvenated with the galvanizing The Sun Don't Lie (1993) and Tales (1995), both of which found him brilliantly connecting the dots of black music’s evolution. Following the fan-demanded Live and More in 1997, Miller released M2 (“M-Squared”) on his own 3 Deuces Records label and won his second Grammy, 2001’s Best Contemporary Jazz Album. A second double live CD, The Ozell Tapes: The Official Bootleg (2003), came next, followed by Silver Rain (2005) and Free (2008), featuring his Grammy-nominated crowd-rouser of Middle Eastern Funk, “Blast.”
2007 found Marcus in a new realm, as host of the North Sea Jazz Cruise, followed by the Playboy Jazz Cruise in 2009 and subsequent Smooth Jazz Cruises annually. In 2008, he co-led the all-star bass trio S.M.V. with Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten for an album (entitled Thunder) followed by an extensive world tour. A concert Marcus arranged and produced with his own band and The Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra featuring trumpeter Roy Hargrove and vocalist Raul Midon was recorded the same year and subsequently released as A Night in Monte Carlo. In the fall of 2009, Marcus put together a new band of young musicians for “Tutu Revisited” - a project that started as a special one night only event to coincide with the acclaimed We Want Miles exhibit at Cité de la Musique in Paris - then became a two-year global sensation beautifully captured for posterity on the CD/DVD Tutu Revisited featuring Christian Scott. In 2011 Marcus went on from Tutu Revisited to co-lead another trio, DMS, a funk-jazz collaboration with George Duke and David Sanborn. In the summer of 2012 Marcus conceived of and produced the “Tribute to Miles” tour, a nine-city tour of Europe with fellow Davis alumni Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, in which they presented their unique vision of every era of Miles’ music.
In the midst of all of his tours, Miller still miraculously made time to continue working in the studio, co-producing George Benson’s concept album Songs & Stories and Dave Koz’s Grammy-nominated CD Hello Tomorrow. He also co-produced a track with Herbie Hancock and internationally renowned singer Juanes entitled “La Tierra” for Hancock’s ambitious The Imagine Project.
Now, duly fortified and deeply inspired, Marcus Miller returns to composing and exploring new music of his own on Renaissance, his upcoming CD to be released on Concord in August 2012, with a sharper focus than ever before, a new band of curious and like-minded young musicians, and a mission to travel the world – country by country, city by city, venue by venue – to take the message of this musical movement straight to the hearts, souls, and minds of the people.