MTH-V: Marcus Miller trifecta

Disclaimer: Those who solely listen “seriously” at all times might not appreciate these. Otherwise, have fun and click away. 🙂

For this week, I’ve decided on a “threefer.” Mainly because, although I do have a favorite of the three, they’re all worth posting (for different reasons), and best posted in tandem. The below videos are all of Marcus Miller‘s “Run For Cover,” performed live with different bands (two are similar, but none are the same), spanning from 1984 into the mid-1990s. I know Marcus can be a touchy subject for a number of “serious jazz musicians” because he sits comfortably on the border of smooth jazz. And I can definitely sympathize with the criticisms. His studio albums (as a leader and/or producer) are hit and miss for me – generally I’ll really like a handful of tunes and ignore the rest. But live and as a sideman, I can’t get enough. (Because of this, he fascinates me endlessly.)

I’ll post the three videos in chronological order, with brief notes for each. Bassists may recognize because of the main bassline in the introductory vamp. Now, one question you may be wondering is: Mike, why are you posting something so cheesy? The answer is simple: because it’s good! As Jeff Coffin says, he likes music that moves him: moves his head, moves his heart, and/or moves his body – it needs to do one of those things to grab him. Marcus definitely succeeds in moving the body here…

1. David Sanborn w. Marcus Miller (1984) — This comes from a live concert that was later released as Sanborn’s Straight to the Heart (1984). I wish I could find a DVD of this concert, as the album was severely compromised by over-producing (e.g., overdubbing awful synth lines, etc.). This stripped-down performance with top-notch session- and sidemen is pretty solid, though. (Notes: Ignore Hiram Bullock’s dancing. There’s a bass intro, and the actual tune starts at ~1:59. And Sanborn makes his chops known.)

2.  Marcus Miller Project (1991) — This performance is from Japan’s famous Live Under The Sky festival. Marcus is the leader this time, and it features many musicians who remain in his band (on and off) to this day. This is the most high-octane performance of the three, and for that reason it’s arguably my favorite. (Being 1991, though, the clothes are another story…do your best to ignore…) It’s pretty cheesy, but it is FUN! And after all, they’re not striving for “high art.” They’re looking to move the audience in their seats, and get them on their feet. They definitely succeed. (Note: Ignore the dancing & gyrating, especially from Everette Harp.) Also, Harp may fall in the smooth camp, but there’s no denying his skill here. Fortunately, he moves out of the smooth territory quickly in his solo.
PS — Make sure to catch Poogie Bell’s “Button Your Fly” t-shirt during the drum solo! 🙂

3. Marcus Miller Band (mid-1990s?) — For the “serious” listeners, this one’s for you. (Except for Patches Stewart’s trumpet solo — he thinks he’s Miles…and isn’t…) An updated band from the second video, and Hiram Bullock is back on guitar and still dancing. But the addition of KENNY GARRETT (!) brings the gravitas the doctor ordered — it’s a great palette cleanser after watching the first two videos in succession. 🙂 His solo is unfortunately short, but he takes it exactly where it needs to go. (Note: ignore the trumpet solo…if it weren’t for that part, this’d probably be my favorite of the three.)

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