Saturday night was spent at the annual Cheltenham Jazz Festival seeing the new Marcus Miller band with some friends dragged along on my recommendation….. and he didn’t disappoint. The centre piece of the Festival this year is a Big Top in the middle of town. A novel idea which immediately implies a lot of fun to be had but aside from that, of course, almost everyone in a Big Top gets a good view. It works a treat. The sound was good too. It came across evenly, for the most part, except that I thought the guitar was a little hidden in the mix except when he was soloing. That could have been a little higher.
MM, whose pedigree in jazz is comparable with the greats and justifiably places him in their company, launched straight into his trade mark chest trembling dexterity. We were about 40 feet from the stage and you could feel the pulse. The tunes were mainly new ones played to promote the new album “Renaissance” , which is out shortly. The band on this tour is Alex Han – sax; Louis Cato – drums; Kris Bowers – keyboards; Adam Agati – guitar and Maurice Brown on trumpet.
The funk was high and the band have energy in abundance as MM directs the music. Solos chiefly feature the brass, of course, and there is no denying the skill and musicianship of Alex Han and Maurice Brown. For me, though, Brown has the more musical colour ( no pun intended ) and I enjoyed his solos the most. I’m a sucker for a great trumpet player and Mr. Brown has sweet tone throughout the range.
A couple of older favourite’s were added to the mix for some familiar flavour. The rocker “Frankenstein” being notable and always pleases the fusion audience.
Marcus Miller is clearly a virtuoso player but his prominent featuring does not detract from what is an excellent band playing varied and expressive jazz. The album is out at the end of May or beginning of June. Look out for it….and if the band hit town near you – get yourself a ticket.
Here’s the band rehearsing. Tick the Funk Box !
…and for a little of Mr.Miller in full flow, try this …