Multifaceted bassist Marcus Miller writes in the liner notes to his new album “Afrodeezia”, that he “was recently named the spokesperson for UNESCO’s “Slave Route Project”, a project aimed at raising awareness of the story of slavery…” and that “this music is a celebration of people’s ability to endure and overcome oppression, finding hope, meaning and joy through music.”
And that is why he has called upon so many musicians from all parts of the world. The catchy, slinky opener “Hylife” features Cherif Soumano, Guimba Kouyaté or Alune Wade from Africa. On “B’s River”, Marcus plays the Gimbri which is a skin-covered lute used by the Gnawa, an ethnich group mostly from North and West Africa, and is accompanied by Cherif Soumano on Kora, the harp lute from West Africa. It’s a thrilling, deliciously exotic tune carried by Miller’s fat, juicy bass.
On “Preacher’s Kid (Song For William H”), Miller plays his signature bass clarinet on a simple and beautiful melody and is supported by a vocal choir led by Lalah Hathaway. A lovely track with a sweet organ solo by Cory Henry. The Djavan-penned “We Were There” features the brazilian component of the record with Aline Cabral, Andrea Duta, and Christiane Correa Tristao on vocals and Marco Lobo on percussion and with a sexy bass solo by the leader himself, aided by a shuffling percussion backdrop.
A cover of The Temptations classic “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” is a rather funky affair with the legendary Wah Wah Watson playing his inimitable Wah Wah guitar accompanied also by Keb’ Mo’ on the Delta Blues guitar. Miller has another solo spot here as does trumpet meister Patches Stewart. A great cover. The Georges Bizet tune “I Still Believe I Hear”, known as “Je Crois Entendre Encore” lowers the tempo and features a brilliant Ben Hong on cello playing the enthralling melody with a lot of heart.
“Son Of Macbeth” is Miller’s tribute to the late, great Ralph MacDonald and adds another special spice here: the steel pans of Robert Greenidge on a rockier tune that also has the effervescent trumpet of Etienne Charles from Trinidad. “Xtraordinary” hearkens back to Miller’s soul roots with a mean fretless bass, a deep bass voice courtesy of Alvin Chea and Kalimba and Djembe thrown in. Could have been right out of the George Duke bag. “Water Dancer” reminds me of the best Weather Report period and features a great, open trumpet solo by Ambrose Akinmusire and an equally frantic alto sax by Alex Han.
Miller rounds out his latest with the sociocritical “I Can’t Breathe” with rapper Chuck D. and Mocean Worker on guitar, programming, and Rhodes. Another pretty funky affair.
Marcus Miller starts his monthlong European tour at the end of this month.