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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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BLUE NOTE 0602547214416



  1. Hylife

  2. B's River

  3. Preacher's Kid (Song For William H.)

  4. We Were There

  5. Papa Was A Rolling Stone

  6. I Still Believe I Hear (Je Crois Entendre Encore)

  7. Son Of Macbeth

  8. Prism

  9. Xtraordinary

  10. Water Dancer

  11. I Can't Breathe

Marcus Miller - Bass guitar (tracks 1, 2, 4-11), bass clarinet (tracks 2, 3, 9-11), gimbri (tracks 2, 11), acoustic bass (track 3), horn arrangement (track 3), kalimba (track 9), party vocal (track 1), vocals (track 9), Fender Rhodes (track 11), synthesizers (track 11)

Lee Hogans - Trumpet (tracks 1, 4, 6, 8, 9)

Alex Han - Alto sax (tracks 1, 2, 4-10)

Adam Agati - Guitar (tracks 1, 2, 4-8, 10)

Mocean Worker - Guitar, breakdown bass guitar, drum programming, Fender Rhodes (track 11)

Brett Williams - Piano (tracks 1, 2, 4, 6, 7), Fender Rhodes (track 4,8)

Louis Cato - Drums (tracks 1-10), vocal riffs (track 1)

Lamumba Henry - Djembe (track 9)


Etienne Charles - Trumpet (tracks 2, 7), percussion (track 7)

Patches Stewart - N'awlins trumpet (track 5)

Ambrose Akinmusire - Trumpet (track 10)

Guimba Kouyaté - Acoustic guitar (tracks 1, 2, 10), background vocals (track 1)

Keb' Mo' - Delta blues guitar (track 5)

Wah Wah Watson - Detroit wah wah guitar (track 5)

Ben Hong - Cello (track 6)

Cherif Soumano - Kora (tracks 2,10), background vocals (track 1)

Michael Doucet - Violin

Cliff Barnes - Soul organ, jazz piano (track 5), piano (track 10)

Cory Henry - Organ (track 3)

Roddie Romero - Accordion (track 10)

Robert Glasper - Fender Rhodes (track 4)

Adama Bilorou Dembele - Percussion (tracks 1, 2, 10), background vocal (track 1)

Marco Lobo - Percussion (track 4)

Munyungo Jackson - African percussion (track 5)

Robert Greenidge - Steel pans (track 7)

Alune Wade - Lead vocals (track 1), choir vocals (track 3), musical suggestions (track 10)

Julia Sarr - Choir vocals (track 3)

Alvin Chea - Choir vocals (track 3), bass voice (track 9)

Lalah Hathaway - Vocals (tracks 3, 4)

Aline Cabral, Andrea Dutra, Christiane Correa Tristao - Background vocals (track 4)

Chuck D. - Vocals (track 11)

It's not very often that a disc presents itself that is uniformly excellent. Marcus Miller, however, has achieved precisely that in Afrodeezia. Miller, who has a strong sense of social justice, was recently appointed spokesperson for UNESCO's “Slave Route Project” which is concerned with raising awareness of the story of slavery, especially among the younger generation. Inspired by the history of those who were to become African Americans and the part that music played in their odyssey, he has drawn together musicians from West Africa, South America, the West Indies and both the southern states and northern cities of the USA. The resulting CD illustrates how fertile and diverse, in genre and expression, the music which is celebrated here remains.

Marcus Miller himself is a man of many talents. Initially a clarinettist, he began to play electric bass guitar in his teen years. It was in the 1990s that he took up the bass clarinet. Miller was with the Miles Davis Band from 1980-82, and subsequently (in 1986) he had a significant role as multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer and arranger on the Davis album Tutu. He also demonstrated his virtuosity in recordings with saxophonist David Sanborn. Over the years he has shown himself at home in pop, soul and jazz alike. Now in his fifties, his musical antennae remain highly sensitive.

Miller was involved as composer, either wholly or in part, in no less than nine of the eleven tracks on this album, the exceptions being Papa Was A Rolling Stone and Georges Bizet's I Still Believe I Hear [Je Crois Entendre Encore]. The latter is taken at a stately pace and features a superb cello offering from Ben Hong and Marcus effective on both fretless and fretted bass guitar. The disc begins with Hylife, a foot-tapper if ever I heard one, complete with vocal riffs. Alex Han on alto and Lee Hogans on trumpet are impressive, as is the stylish Brett Williams on piano. The rhythmic B's River follows. Etienne Charles on trumpet demonstrates the truth of the adage 'less is more'. Miller plays with passion and edge. Preacher's Kid [Song for William H], a gently swinging theme, contains some rich vocal sounds from the choir, as well as superlative, yearning bass clarinet from Miller complemented by funky organ playing from Cory Henry. We Were There has Marcus back on bass guitar, appealing vocal backing and trumpet and alto triumphantly in step. Guest Robert Glasper solos on Fender Rhodes alongside scat-singing Lalah Hathaway. Papa Was A Rolling Stone is treated to an infectious rendition with no less than four different types of guitar to be heard. Son Of Macbeth is yet another catchy number. Adam Agati is on sturdy form in his guitar solo. The Caribbean flavour is enhanced by the presence of Robert Greenidge on steel pans. Xtraordinary lives up to its title – a further lyrical and moving tune in the ballad tradition. Marcus Miller is wonderful on fretless bass guitar, ably assisted by Hogan's tasteful trumpet. Water Dancer is a lively piece with coherent ensemble work in evidence. Ambrose Akinmusire guests on trumpet and shows why he is so highly rated while Alex Han delivers a typically fervent solo. I confess that I didn't expect to like I Can't Breathe with rap vocal by Chuck D. but it works, to the extent that I found the engaging beat lodged in my memory bank for days after hearing it! It also has a serious political point and relevance, as Marcus Miller explains in the liner notes.

To conclude, then, Miller and his musicians are difficult to fault at any point. I haven't yet expressed my appreciation of those responsible for percussion, whether guests, or, in the case of drummer Louis Cato, a core musician. They were exceptional. Contemporary jazz can, on occasions, be a solemn business. Afrodeezia left me with a smile on my face.

James Poore

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