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Marcus Miller - Afrodeezia (2015)

In honoring Miller’s black African ancestors, Afrodeezia incorporates his own working band and his extended musical family from the Caribbean, South America and West Africa. Miller’s musical paintings illustrate how several generations of those ancestors have influenced the urban music culture in so many ways. The first single, “Hylife,” bridges the sweet highlife rhythms of Ghana with funk-spiced-jazz, revolving around sweet breakdowns and solid instrumental adlibs. “I Can’t Breathe” (featuring Chuck D and Mocean Worker) is perhaps a candidate for the next single, anchored by its catchy hand clapping electro rhythms and pulsing marimba, flanked by a ‘rock the microphone’ appearance by Chuck D: “Never a good thing when you are breathing in fear.” The energetic festivities continue with “Son of Macbeth,” packed with rock riffs and an engaging hook with brass, marimba and electric guitar, and “Water Dancer,” which dabbles in avant-jazz, anchored by aggressive African percussion, marvelously matched by trumpet, saxophone and electric guitar solos.

Plenty of air miles have gone into Afrodeezia, recorded at slave-trade locations in Africa, the Americas and France by former Miles Davis bass guitarist and composer Marcus Miller, spurred by his role as a spokesperson for Unesco’s Slave Route Project.

Vocalist Lalah Hathaway, rapper Chuck D and jazz musicians Robert Glasper and Ambrose Akinmusire are among the guests on a typically inviting and pop-friendly Miller venture, taking in sauntering hi-life themes, elegantly orchestrated gospel songs, dark and guttural R&B, and a chanson-like episode mingling classical cello and electric bass.

The smoothly frolicking groover Hylife, with its warm brass parts, soul-sax wail from the David Sanborn-like Alex Han, snappy bass-guitar accents and soft vocal chants, sounds like a single, which it is. The twanging turns, chiming sounds and thumping low accents of Miller’s bass-playing still dazzle on tracks such as the Africanised pop ballad B’s River or the breezily shuffling (but rather cheesily sung) We Were There. Preacher’s Kid is intimately gospelly, and Xtraordinary has echoes of Weather Report in its yearning unison theme for sax and bass guitar.

Despite the seriousness of his subject, the versatile Miller’s work never altogether shakes off an air of expert slickness, but some strong themes and plenty of urgent improvising more or less neutralise that.

available on March, 16th on Blue Note Itunes http://po.st/iTunesAfrodeezia Amazon http://po.st/AmazonAfrodeezia GooglePlay http://po...

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