Smitty: Well, once again Mr. Marcus Miller graces the stage of JazzMonthly.com, the incredible funk master himself. He has cut another four-string wonder and let me tell ya, if you liked his last project, you’re gonna love this one. It is self-titled and there are some fantastic tunes and you know he always comes with some swingers to support his project and there is nothing different this time. Please welcome the incredible and amazing, the one and only Mr. Marcus Miller. How you doing, my brotha?
Marcus Miller (MM): I’m doing great, man. How you doing, man?
Smitty: Oh, wonderful, you know?
MM: That’s great.
Smitty: And even better now that I have this new record, man.
MM: Oh, good. I’m glad you like it. That’s nice to hear.
Smitty: This is just some fantastic stuff, you’ve got some great players on here, I mean, you got Lalah [Hathaway], you got Corinne Bailey Rae, I mean, how can you go wrong, you know?
MM: Yeah, if you start from there, man, then we’ve got Keb’ Mo’, David Sanborn, Tom Scott. You remember Tom Scott?
Smitty: Oh yeah. Yeah, man.
MM: Yeah, he’s been doing his thing, so it’s beautiful. I’m really happy to have those people involved.
Smitty: Yeah, you know, when I heard that David Sanborn was on there, I was looking for one of those little jingles.
Smitty: “And that was ‘Blast’ by Marcus Miller.” (Both laugh.) Remember those little jingles?
MM: Right, that’s right, the jingles that he used to do, man.
Smitty: Yeah, man, that was so cool. But this is some kind of record and in some respects this was a nice little reunion with some of your favorite musicians too for this record, wasn’t it?
MM: Yeah, well, yeah, definitely with David Sanborn. We have a long history together. We started making records together when I was writing for him and producing his albums back in the early 80s, so it was nice to get back together with him and then I got a new guy on the album. I mean, he’s not a new musician, but this is the first time we played together. His name is Chester Thompson and Chester was the organist for Tower of Power back in the 70s when they were doing their thing.
MM: Yeah, and now he plays organ with Santana and I asked him to join me on a version of Tower of Power’s “What Is Hip?” So he played the organ on that thing. I was really happy to have him.
Smitty: And that was a swingin’ track, man. I mean, this is unbelievable. I mean, you cats just let the funk out on this one, you know?
MM: (Laughs.) Thank you.
Smitty: Whoo! That was sweet. Yeah, and you’re right, man. He just tore it up on there and that organ is hot.
MM: Yeah, he did his thing. It was nice to finally meet him because I’ve been listening to those Tower of Power records for so long, man, it’s finally nice to see the guy who had so much of a part in that sound, you know?
Smitty: Yeah, and then you brought back some of the cats I like, like Patches Stewart. Man, that cat…
MM: Oh yeah, yeah. Well, I got the guys who are touring with me, so that would include Patches Stewart on trumpet, who’s got a beautiful sound, man, and Gregoire Maret plays the harmonica. He comes from Geneva, Switzerland originally and he lives in Brooklyn in New York now, but he played that harmonica. He’ll remind you like if you took Stevie Wonder and Toots Thielemans and combine them together you get Gregoire Maret.
MM: He’s got a really nice sound. If you hear the album, you’re definitely gonna hear his stamp all over it, you know?
Smitty: Yeah, man, he’s a bad boy.
MM: When he starts, you think, oh, is that Stevie? And then he keeps going to some other notes. You go that’s not Stevie, that’s somebody else, you know? And then people wanna know who he is.
Smitty: Yeah, he’s got command.
MM: Yeah. I don’t know how he does it because it’s such a small instrument and most people you hear playing harmonica, they play kinda basic either blues or kinda the basic music.
MM: But he’s playing all sorts of stuff. I still don’t know how he does that.
Smitty: Yeah, but he can bring it.
MM: Yeah, he does.
Smitty: Well, Marcus, we got to hang out a little bit in Holland and I got to see you do your thing over there.
Smitty: And it was good to bump into you again and Bobby Sparks and, like you said, Patrick and all the cats, and that was a really nice gig, you got your feet wet in the water too, didn’t you? You hosted your first jazz cruise.
MM: Yeah, I hosted the North Sea Jazz Cruise last year, last summer, man. You know, at first I was a little apprehensive. I was like “I don’t wanna be any cruise director,” you know? But they approached it the right way. They said “Look, it’s all up to you with the music. You just invite whoever you would wanna hear.” And I said “Really?” They said “Yeah,” so I said “Okay,” so I got Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner and Kirk Whalum and Medeski, Martin & Wood, James Carter. It was beautiful, man, and everyone was on this ship together and the people who came to listen, they love music so much that it ended up being a beautiful experience for the musicians as well as the listeners.
Smitty: Yeah, love that scene.
MM: To be surrounded by people who absolutely adore what you do, man, there’s just nothing like it. It turned out to be a really beautiful experience.
Smitty: Yes, it was. Talk about some of the stops, the ports on this cruise.
MM: Oh, let’s see, last summer, man, we started in Copenhagen and then we sailed up the North Sea and we made a couple of stops, one in Germany, one in Switzerland, and we ended up at the North Sea Jazz Festival, where they have it, in Rotterdam. That’s where the boat stopped and then it stayed docked there for three days being used as the hotel so the people on the boat could experience the jazz festival, so it was a pretty cool experience.