Marcus Miller drenches fans in jazz, funk, reggae - and classical - tunes

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

FAIRFIELD - No one lays down the funk like bassist extraordinaire Marcus Miller.

A professional bass guitarist since the age of 15, Grammy award-winning Miller has performed with the cream of the crop in the jazz and R&B arena - Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, Eric Clapton, David Sanborn, Frank Sinatra and Lalah Hathaway, to name just a handful. Next month, Herbie Hancock will be added to his list of who's who in music.

The bass guru is also a producer (Miles Davis, David Sanborn), a film scorer ("House Party," "Boomerang"), composer, and is now promoting his recently released sixth CD entitled, "Silver Rain," which he describes as a window into his mind which he opened up wide.

"I didn't stop myself from doing what I felt," he explained.

And this basically describes Miller's path to success. Inspired by Luther Vandross, who "stuck to his guns" when making decisions regarding his musical career, Miller knew the way to musical freedom was by being true to himself. And that meant breaking some rules.

"I feel very fortunate that I established my own rule, my own game," he said confidently. "You have those pure jazz and R&B rules, but you don't have to play by them, and I think I've done a good job of it."

There's no doubt Miller's new album stretches boundaries. "Silver Rain" is an album that drenches the listener with jazz, funk, reggae and classical music. Yes, classical.

"I was trying to be respectful to old Ludwig (van Beethoven)," Miller said during a phone interview from Paris, France. The track "Moonlight Sonata" is one of 15 on the album.

"The trick is there is a fine line," he continued. "You don't want to do what they did because people can hear the original if they want to. But I feel pretty sweet about it and people get to see something about my personality."

More of his personalities come out when he shows off his chops in a duo with Eric Clapton in "Silver Rain," which, by the way, was inspired by a Bob Marley performance.

"He's a musician at the core of everything and we really relate in that level," Miller said of Clapton. "And isn't that a cool beat? We really blend."

The fusion between artists on the album, who include Lalah Hathaway, Gerald Albright, Macy Gray, Gregoire Maret and Kirk Whalum, does more than blend, however. It takes the listener to another place, another realm, and that's exactly what Miller intended to do.

"That's why I called it 'Silver Rain.' I want it to take you somewhere else," the 46-year-old said. "You get to a point where you voice your identity and I feel like I'm almost there. I'm glad to touch people and still do what I enjoy doing."

Considering how long Miller has been in music and with whom he's performed, the bassist is grounded, has a hearty laugh, a sense of humor and on occasion, will coach his daughter's soccer team. So, how does it do it?

"I don't take things for granted. It's like my uncle said, 'Every time my feet hit the floor, it's a good day'."