Marcus Miller Interview
A Conversation with Marcus Miller
by Paula Edelstein
Marcus Miller needs no introduction. The world-class bassist is just about known to everyone who’s into bass players and their music. If they aren’t then they should be! Miller’s amazing bass playing technique is being copied by legions of excited protégé’s and who knows, someone’s son or daughter just might be among the many fans that he has captivated since he burst onto the music scene. As a Who’s Who In Jazz, Marcus Miller is all that. His latest release proves it. The current tour band consists of Dean Brown on guitar, Poogie Bell on drums, Bruce Flowers on keyboards, Roger Byam on saxophones, and Michael “Patches” Stewart on trumpet. Their sound engineer recorded the tour “live” on a mini-tape and after hearing it, put it out so that we could re-live the excitement first hand. And exciting it is. So Listen UP and hear what Marcus had to say about the making of Marcus Miller Live: The Ozell Tapes.
PE: First of all, thanks so much for the interview. What a dynamic “live” recording Marcus Miller Live: The Ozell Tapes turned out to be…especially since it’s such a “pure” set. I’ve definitely got to have one of those Sharp Model 702 Mini-Disc recorders!
MM: You’re right…that is a nice recorder. We’d previously used it just to playback the concerts for the musicians to allow them to hear what had worked well or what they needed to work on. But when my engineer played them for me, I told him, “We need to let this music out as it is.”
PE: Was there any one concert on that Spring 2002 tour that you consider your most special?
MM: We had a few of them. Paris was great but for the most part, the band stepped up and did a great job throughout the tour.
PE: Marcus, you have dedicated your high standards to the full range of the jazz, electronica and funk genres with some of the best musicians on the music scene today the current band included. On this recording, you play your Fender Marcus Miller Signature Bass and 4 different bass guitars. For those novices or non-musician listeners that want to know the whys and hows of choosing the right bass to play, please explain why you’ve chosen to play a particular bass on certain songs?
MM: On some songs, such as a ballad, I play a fretless bass to give the song a more melodic, lyrical feel. But other than that, I try not to jump around too much because I want my sound to come through as a signature sound that people will remember.
PE: There are still some of your listeners who don’t realize that your musical versatility extends beyond the bass guitars to the bass clarinet, soprano saxophone and keyboards. Why did you add these particular woodwind instruments and the keyboards to your range of instruments instead of say, other basses such as the double or piccolo?
MM: I started out playing the clarinet and woodwinds in school but later switched to the bass. However, at times when rehearsing or composing, I found myself automatically assuming the fingering positions for the clarinet and saxophone and realized that I still had a lot of the horn player in me.
PE: Many of your previous recordings spotlight your amazing skills with several jazz icons including the great Miles Davis. Once again you pay tribute to him in a major way with the 19-minute “Miles/Marcus Medley” of “Hannibal,” “Amandla,” and “Tutu.” What did that original collaboration with Miles Davis back in the 80s represent for you with respect to the mechanics of interplay between a jazz legend and new producer/accompanist?
MM: It was a beautiful friendship. I called Miles one day and told him that I had some music that I wanted him to hear. I played a lot of the demos on the horn so that he’d know what it would sound like. He encouraged me to keep writing and he basically kept inspiring me throughout our collaborations.
PE: What are some of your other interests outside of music?
MM: For a while, I was racing cars, but with four children…that didn’t make much sense! I like basketball and I also read a lot.
PE: Marcus, in no uncertain terms, you travel a lot. When on the road, or when in other countries, do you ever have to deal with issues that transcend music such as cultural diversity?
MM: Yes, we all have certain issues and I found that out right away when we played in Italy. When they ask for an encore, you really don’t have a choice whether to play or not. I made the mistake of not coming back and they started throwing bottles and cans at the roadies! So now I know about the cultural requirements of most places where I am scheduled to perform. But most of all, there is an avid appreciation of our music everywhere we go.
PE: Will you be in concert this Spring or Summer? If so, how and where and when?
MM: Yes, we’ll be in Europe, Japan and also have some dates in Australia.
PE: Thanks so much for the interview Marcus. Here’s wishing you the best of luck with the new CD.
For more about Marcus Miller visit his web site at http://marcusmiller.com.