CD Review: Marcus Miller "Afrodeezia"

Drawing from his role as a UNESCO Artist for Peace/Slave Route Project spokesman, Marcus Miller delivers an inspired solo debut for Blue Note and one of his most distinctive albums to date.
By Chris Jisi ,

Drawing from his role as a UNESCO Artist for Peace/Slave Route Project spokesman, Marcus Miller delivers an inspired solo debut for Blue Note and one of his most distinctive albums to date. Recorded at studios across the globe with a cast of world and regional musicians joining his nimble band, Afrodeezia opens with the festive vocal/instrumental “Hylife,” a nod to West African highlife music (as is the later “Son of MacBeth”). The stirring, thematic “B’s River” follows, pivoting on hard-plucked bass and kora by Chérif Soumano. Further uplifting, the 3/4 “Preacher’s Kid” launches with an African choir and Miller’s upright support behind his bass clarinet melody before building to a horn-infused climax that recalls Jaco’s “Three Views of a Secret.” Elsewhere, Miller’s fretless gets a workout on the expressive ballad “Xtraordinary” and the mournful “I Believe I Can Still Hear,” adapted from Georges Bizet. On the funky side, the samba “We Were There” features Marcus’ broadest solo, boasting multiple sounds and techniques; “Water Dancer” is an Afro-shuffle; and a subtly reharmonzied cover of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” sports a Jamer-son- flavored P-Bass groove solo outro. Finally, the closer, “I Can’t Breathe,” merges Miller’s multi-instrumental role (including his turn on a three-stringed gimbri), a house groove, and a rap from none other than Public Enemy’s Chuck D.