Afrodeezia (Blue Note)

Marcus Miller

Released March 16, 2015

AllMusic Favorite Jazz Albums 2015




Afrodeezia—which was inspired by Miller’s role as a UNESCO Artist For Peace and spokesperson for the organization’s Slave Route Project—was recorded in locations around the world including Morocco, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans and Los Angeles, and features a wide range of guests including rapper Chuck D., vocalist Lalah Hathaway, keyboardist Robert Glasper, trumpeters Etienne Charles and Ambrose Akinmusire, guitarists Keb’ Mo’ and Wah Wah Watson, bassist/producer Mocean Worker, organist Cory Henry (Snarky Puppy), and cellist Ben Hong, as well as musicians from Africa, South America and the Caribbean. Miller’s core band includes saxophonist Alex Han, trumpeter Lee Hogans, pianist Brett Williams, guitarist Adam Agati, and drummer Louis Cato.

“It was after visiting the House of Slaves on Gorée Island that I composed “Gorée,” explains Miller, referring to the powerful track featured on his previous album Renaissance. “Onstage I felt the need to say what I had been feeling in Senegal. I wanted people to understand that this tune spoke not only of the slave tragedy but, through the music especially, that these people who suddenly found themselves at the bottom of a ship’s hold had discovered a way to survive, and were able in time to transform their distress into joy. Shortly after my trip to Gorée, UNESCO named me an Artist for Peace, and made me the spokesperson for the Slave Route Project. That was when I started thinking about Afrodeezia.”

“The power of music has no limits,” states Miller. “Through spirituals, jazz and soul we were able to preserve our history, because all the rest had been erased. What I wanted most was to go back to the source of the rhythms that make our musical heritage so rich, to follow them like footprints from their beginnings in Africa all the way to the United States. That journey took us from Mali to Paris, from New Orleans to Sao Paulo and across the Caribbean.” “For this project, I collaborated with musicians from West Africa, South America, the Caribbean, the southern U.S. and the large northern cities of the U.S. This is my way of paying tribute to the long journey of my African ancestors who became African-Americans. The melodies and rhythms they carried with them from Africa have EXPLODED into a ‘dizzying’ array of musical styles and genres that have changed the world.”

Track Listing:

1. Hylife (Marcus Miller / Mamadou Cherif Soumano / Alune Wade) 06:59

2. B’s River (Marcus Miller) 06:48

3. Preacher’s Kid (Song For William H) (Marcus Miller / Alune Wade) 05:45

4. We Were There (Djavan / Marcus Miller) 06:48

5. Papa Was a Rolling Stone (Barrett Strong / Norman Whitfield) 06:06

6. I Still Believe I Hear (Je Crois Entendre Encore) (Georges Bizet) 07:06

7. Son of Macbeth (Marcus Miller) 06:11

8. Prism (Interlude) (Adam Agati / Louis Cato / Alex Han / Lee Hogans / Marcus Miller / Brett Williams) 00:29

9. Xtraordinary (Marcus Miller) 06:14

10. Water Dance (Marcus Miller) 07:28

11. I Can’t Breathe (Adam Dornblum / Marcus Miller / Carlton Ridenhour) 05:08


Marcus Miller: bass clarinet, piano, gimbri, Fender Rhodes

Louis Cato: drums (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10), vocals (1), alto saxofone (4), djembe (6)

Lee Hogans: trumpet (1, 4, 6, 8, 9)

Brett Williams: piano (1, 2, 7, 8)

Alex Han: alto sax (1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10), soprano saxofone (6)

Adam Agati: guitar (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10)

Cory Henry: organ (2)

Julia Sarr, Alune Wade, Alvin Chea: choir vocals (3)

Lalah Hathaway: vocals (3, 4)

Keb’ Mo’: guitar (5)

Wah Wah Watson: guitar (5)

Adama Bilorou Dembele: percussion (1, 2, 10)

Alune Wade: backing vocals (1, 3)

Guimba Kouate: vocals (1, 9), acoustic guitar (2, 10)

Cherif Soumano: acoustic guitar (1), background vocals (1), kora (2, 10)

Mocean Worker: guitar, bass guitar, Fender Rhodes (11)

Etienne Charles: trumpet (2, 7), percussion (7)

Robert Glasper: Fender Rhodes (4)

Aline Cabral, Andrea Dutra, Christiane Correa Tristao: background vocals (4)

Patrick Stewart: trumpet (5)

Cliff Barnes: organ, piano (5, 10)

Munyungo Jackson: percussion (5)

Lamumba Henry: percussion (6, 9)

Marco Lobo: percussion (4)

Robert Greenidge: steel pans (7)

Alvin Chea: bass vocals (9)

Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet (10)

Michael Doucet: violin (10)

Roddie Romero: accordion (10)

Ben Hong: cello (6)

Chuck D.: vocals (11)

Recorded at 1172 Bounce, North Brunswick, NJ; Audible Images, Pittsburgh; Dockside Studio; Essouira, Morocco; Festival Gnaoua et Musique du Monde; GBP Studios; Grand Street Recording; Hannibal Studios, Santa Monica; Jack Of All Studios, Quincy, MA; Jankland Recording Studio; La Louisianne Recording Studios; Point G Studio; Queens Studio, Queens, NY; Riomar Studios, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil; Rustic Space, Portland, ME; The Dornmitory; The Village Recorder

Produced by Marcus Miller and Mocean Worler (track 11)

Executive Producers: Harols Goode and Harry Martin

Associate Producer: Harols Goode

Recorded by André Cavalante, Ghian Wright, Glenn Brown, Hollis Greathouse, JP Hesser, John Roods, Justin Tocket, Ken Rich, Serge Glanzberg

Mixing: Taka Honda (1, 7, 10), David Rideau (2, 6, 9), Dave Isaac (3, 4, 5), Marcus Blackberry (8) and James Saez (11)

Mastered by Louie Teran

Photography: Cathrin Cammett

Design: Rebecca Meek


Afrodeezia is bassist Marcus Miller’s debut for Blue Note Records. Produced by the artist, the 11-track set features his core band — saxophonist Alex Han, trumpeter Lee Hogans, pianist Brett Williams, guitarist Adam Agati, and drummer Louis Cato — with an international list of guests. The music was inspired by Miller’s work as a UNESCO artist for peace, and as a spokesperson for the Slave Route project. Afrodeezia is a masterful contemporary reflection of transcontinental rhythms and melodies that have migrated through the bodies and spirits of African slaves as they were transported to South America, the Caribbean, and the United States before refracting back across the globe in the contemporary era through jazz, R&B, and hip-hop. “Hylife,” the set’s first single, reflects the long reach of Ghana’s popular style grafted on to contemporary jazz-funk with a host of Senegalese musicians on percussion and backing vocals. Lead vocals are provided courtesy of Alune Wade, the great Senegalese bassist. Despite its intense dancefloor appeal, the players’ sophisticated rhythmic and harmonic interplay is ferocious. On “B’s River,” kora player Cherif Soumano and guest trumpeter Etienne Charles solo with Miller on gimbri, bass, and bass clarinet. “Preacher’s Kid (Song for William H)” melds modern jazz and American and African gospel. The bassist performs on upright, clarinet, and piano; Cory Henry guests with a gorgeous organ solo as Lalah Hathaway delivers wordless vocals supported by Wade, Dakar’s mezzo-soprano Julia Sarr, and Take 6’s Alvin Chea. “We Were There” celebrates the example of George Duke and Joe Sample and how their love for Brazilian sounds transformed modern jazz. Robert Glasper’s Fender Rhodes is a nice foil for Miller’s dominant bassline. Hathaway’s scat vocals are appended by a Brazilian chorus with percussion from Marco Lobo. The cover of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” features guitarists Wah-Wah Watson (who appeared on the Temptations’ hit), and Keb’ Mo’, whose blues approach arcs the lineage to the Delta. Patches Stewart adds his NOLA trumpet playing to emphasize that city’s R&B groove in the heart of Northern Soul. Rightfully, this jam is ruled by Miller’s bassline, which pays homage to the original while revealing how it influenced everything in popular music that came afterward. “Son of Macbeth” is another monster groover that re-links calypso to contemporary jazz. Just as Robert Greenridge’s steel pan drums made Grover Washington, Jr. and Bill Withers’ “(Just) the Two of Us” so infectious, Greenridge appears to do the same here. “I Can’t Breathe,” with just Miller and Mocean Worker creating a wild meld of instrumental color, back Public Enemy’s Chuck D in wedding hard funk, political hip-hop, and dance music, exhorting the listener to remember that the struggle for equality is not over. Miller’s wide-angle view of jazz is extended further on the glorious Afrodeezia. It reveals in a sophisticated, exceptionally ambitious manner the labyrinthine interconnectedness of earlier sounds and rhythms — which emerged from bondage and horrific suffering — to new ones that bring the world joy.

Thom Jurek (AllMusic)