Marcus Miller explores his African roots on new CD

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Posted: Mar 24, 2015 4:06 PM
Marcus Miller explores his African roots on new CD

Marcus Miller, "Afrodeezia" (Blue Note)

Inspired by his work as spokesperson for UNESCO's Slave Route Project, bass guitarist, composer and producer Marcus Miller takes listeners on a groove-filled musical odyssey on "Afrodeezia." The CD explores how the rhythms and melodies brought from Africa shaped the music of the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean.

The album opens with the funky, dance-inducing "Hylife" based on West Africa's highlife style, with Miller's snappy electric bass lines, jazzy horn riffs from alto saxophonist Alex Han and African singers. On "B's River, inspired by Malian music, Miller plucks a gimbri, an African ancestor to the bass guitar.

"We Were There" is a breezy, joyful Brazilian-flavored tune with wordless vocals by Lalah Hathaway and Brazilian backup singers and a driving electric keyboard solo by Robert Glasper. The infectious calypso-inspired "Son of Macbeth" matches blaring horns with Trinidadian Robert Greenidge's steel pan drumming.

Miller pays tribute to his church organist father on the blues and gospel-influenced "Preacher's Kid (Song for William H)" playing bass clarinet as well as acoustic bass; gets funky on a cover of "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" assisted by Delta blues guiarist Keb' Mo and Motown guitarist Wah Wah Watson, and mixes avant-garde jazz with African percussion on "Water Dancer."

Miller believes music helped his ancestors persevere through the worst times and plays a similar role today. The closing track, "I Can't Breathe," has a pulsating electro beat and features Chuck D. (Public Enemy) rapping about the recent police killings of black men.