Marcus Miller

Released in 2001

Grammy Award Best Contemporary Jazz Album 2002




If you have any pop, soul, or jazz CDs, the ubiquitous bassist and multi-instrumentalist Marcus Miller is probably on some of them. From Luther Vandross and David Sanborn to Miles Davis, Miller has been making cutting-edge music with the greatest stars of the past three decades. On M2, which includes a stellar array of musicians from Wayne Shorter to Maceo Parker, Miller unveils the full range of his eclectic musicality. On the funky, uptempo “Power,” the Talking Heads’s “Burning Down the House” (featuring alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett), and “Nikki’s Groove,” Miller displays his powerful thumb-plucking Larry Graham-derived licks. On Charles Mingus’s moody tribute to Lester Young, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” Herbie Hancock tickles the ivories in his trademarked impressionistic style, which complements Miller’s Jaco Pastorius-like bass lines. Miller’s arranging genius transforms John Coltrane’s ballad “Lonnie’s Lament” into a head-bopping hip-hop groove Dr. Dre would like, thanks to his soul-searing bass clarinet, and Branford Marsalis’s and Hubert Laws’s soprano sax and flute lines. Raphael Saadiq, the Brazilian superstar Djavan, and the legendary Chaka Khan lend their distinct vocals to the quiet-storm vehicles “Boomerang,” “It’s Me Again,” and the spiritual “Your Amazing Grace.” With a firm grasp of the jazz tradition and a broad knowledge of popular musical idioms, Marcus Miller is in the center of everything, laying down the groove.

Eugene Holley Jr.


Without the benefit of hardly any air play, “M-Squared,” the new album by bassist Marcus Miller is currently riding high at the top of the jazz sales chart. The 42 year-old musician will be playing selections from the release, with a crack band, on a North American tour that runs through the end of this month.

“If you make the music good enough, it can overcome all those names that people need to put on music,” Miller said by phone from his Los Angeles studio. “We’ve played smooth jazz festivals where people have trouble eating their cheese, and we’ve played traditional jazz festivals where we’re the only electric band there. There’s so much to do in the middle.

“We want to play music that they have to feel, before they can put names on it,” Miller continued. “That’s one of the reasons I’m not on the air.”

It’s not just in your hometown where Miller isn’t on the radio. All across the country, Miller’s music is too jazzy for adult urban radio, too funky for the smooth stations, and he’s too electric for the mainstream jazz frequencies. Yet, only Brain Culbertson has a more popular contemporary jazz album in the country, according to national sales charts.

“It depends on the day,” Miller dead panned, when asked how he describes his music. “Sometimes I call it soul-jazz, but funk-jazz usually hits close enough. But there’s not really a name to describe it, because it ‘s a combination of stuff. It’s like we’re in our own space.”

“The problem is that I’ve been involved in making music for Miles Davis, and been involved with making music with Luther Vandross on the R&B tip, and all the stops in between, so my music is a

reflection of where I’ve been. It’s just good music.”

Obviously, all Miller has to do is put out a record and jazz and funk consumers will come. The same can be said for the best musicians in the world. If Marcus calls, they will come running.

“That comes from making music that people feel and doing it the old fashion way,” the bassist said “The music is strong enough and that has helped me build an audience over the years.”

The 14 track cd features performances by Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, Chaka Khan, Paul Jackson Jr, Wayne Shorter, Kenny Garrett, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker of James Brown fame, and other stars.

Starting at the age of 15, the Brooklyn-born musician began a long career of backing big names on stage and in the studio. He started with flautist Bobbi Humprhey and quickly moved up to Bob James, Aretha Franklin and Grover Washington, including the G-Man’s classic “Winelight” album.

But it was his prowess as a composer and producer that earned him a massive international following. During the 80’s and early 90’s, Miller produced some of the most important albums of our time, and wrote some of the most memorable tunes of that era.

In a period of about 12 years, he was music director for Luther Vandross, David Sanborn and Miles Davis, and wrote big hits for them all. Respectively, among the hits he wrote for those superstars are “The Power of Love,” “Maputo,” and “Tutu.” The bassist, who also plays bass clarinet, called the trio his teachers, and said he learned something from each one of them.

“The main thing I got from Luther was to stick to your guns,” said the man who produced eight of Vandross’ platinum albums.

“When Luther started in the early 80’s, record companies were interested in groups. They told him he needed a group or a gimmick. Luther told them his gimmick was that he stands there and sings.

“I saw Miles go through the same thing,” the bassist continued. “People were criticizing him and telling him what he should be doing. I learned from Miles that you can only really do what you really feel.”

What impressed Miller about Sanborn was his ability to create his own marketplace. He pointed out how Sanborn was very popular before smooth jazz radio came along, but when it did, the sax man became a staple of the format.

“David and I were on records that some people say invented smooth jazz,” Miller said, pointing to the Sanborn albums he played on, specifically Backstreet and Double Vision.

“My song “Maputo,” could be called the first smooth jazz standard. But that’s just one flavor of what I do.

“I just want to make music and have people find it, and maybe make a new category,” Miller concluded.

Mark Ruffin (Jazz USA)

Track Listing:

1. Power (Marcus Miller) 4:37

2. Lonnie’s Lament (John Coltrane) 5:39

3. Boomerang (Marcus Miller) featuring: Raphael Saadiq 5:49

4. Nikki’s Groove (Marcus Miller) 3:28

5. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (Charles Mingus) 3:34

6. Ozell (Interlude 1) (Marcus Miller) 0:48

7. Burning Down the House (David Byrne / Chris Frantz / Jerry Harrison / Tina Weymouth) 6:54

8. It’s Me Again (Marcus Miller) 6:05

9. Cousin John (Marcus Miller) 4:42

10. Ozell (Interlude 2) (Marcus Miller) 0:39

11. 3 Deuces (Marcus Miller) 5:51

12. Red Baron (Billy Cobham) 6:38

13. Your Amazing Grace (Marcus Miller) 7:43

14. Ozell (Interlude 3) (Marcus Miller) 1:01


Marcus Miller: bass guitar, acoustic bass, guitar, B-flat and bass clarinet, alto and tenor saxophone, drum programming, synths, piano, organ, Fender Rhodes, clavinet, vocoder, vocals

Michael “Patches” Stewart: trumpet

Fred Wesley: trombone

Kenny Garrett: alto saxophone

Maceo Parker: alto saxophone

Wayne Shorter: soprano saxophone

Branford Marsalis: soprano saxophone

James Carter: tenor saxophone

Hubert Laws: flute

Herbie Hancock: piano

Bernard Wright: Fender Rhodes, organ

Paul Jackson: acoustic guitar

Hiram Bullock: acoustic guitar

Leroy “Scooter” Ralor: bass synth

Vinnie Colaiuta: drums

Poogie Bell: drums

Lenny White: brush fills

Mino Cinelu: percussion

David Isaac: cowbell, triangle, water EFX, percussion programming

Larry Corbett: cello

Matthew Funes: viola

Joel Derouin: violin

Chaka Khan: vocals

Djavan: vocals

Recorded and mixed at Hannibal Studios, Santa Monica, CA
Additional recording at Camel Island Studio, Universal Music Studios, Milky Way Technics, Garage Sale Studio and Larrabee Sound Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Sound on Sound, New York, NY; AR Studios, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Groid Studios, New Rochelle, NY; Strawberry Skies, West Columbia, SC

Executive Producers: Marcus Miller, Harold Goode and Harry Martin

Produced by Marcus Miller

Co-Produced by David Isaac

Mixed by Ray Bardani, David Isaac and Khaliq-O-Vision

Production Coordination by Bibi Green

Assistant Engineer: Alexandre Reis, Khaliq-O-Vision, Michelle Forbes, Richard Furch, Takamasa Honda

Art Direction and Design: Jack Frisch

Photography by Kumiko Higo


For well over two decades, Marcus Miller has firmly established himself on the jazz/funk recording scene as funk bassist extraordinare and producer for the likes of Miles Davis, David Sanborn, and Chaka Khan. He’s also proficient on a wide variety of instruments, including bass clarinet, keyboards, saxophones, and vibraphone, and is a competent composer to boot. He’s been so in demand as a producer and performer for other people that he has recorded under his own name only sporadically. All of his varied and considerable talents are on display on his latest release, M2 (M-squared) – also his debut for Telarc. Even with the impressive roster of accompanying talent, most of whom appear on two or three cuts in varying combinations, and despite Miller’s instrumental versatility, at no point during the program will you lose sight of the fact that this is the bassist’s date. Miller’s crisp, popping bass is always mixed prominently, front and center, handling all the heads and a fair number of the solos. The disc is full of bad-ass funky attitude, musical virtuosity, and production skill. But despite all the talent on hand, this program never quite gels into an engaging, memorable listening experience. This CD is essentially an audio resume. It could also serve as a funk bass tutorial. You’ll be impressed with the skill, but you probably won’t return often to this disc purely for the music.

Dave Hughes (AllAboutJazz)