Bassist Marcus Miller continues this legacy with A Night In Monte-Carlo, a live audio document of an amazing concert he was commissioned to perform on November 29, 2008 in the “rich man’s playground” of Monaco – a performance of music of his choice, much of it from his pen, featuring his arrangements for symphony orchestra. A Night In Monte-Carlo is set for release on February 1, 2011 on Concord Jazz, a division of the Concord Music Group. It features Marcus leading both his quartet and the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, with special guests: trumpeter Roy Hargrove as well as singer, songwriter and guitarist Raul Midón. “I was invited by Jean-René Palacio, the Artistic Director for the principality of Monaco to present some of my music with the orchestra on the French Riviera,” Marcus recalls. No stranger to the area, as he has performed there many times and played there on his downtime as a race car buff during the Grand Prix, Marcus relished the opportunity of sharing his music in the breathtaking and intimate 600-seat Monte-Carlo Opera House. The repertoire for A Night In Monte-Carlo covers nearly a century of music – from two styles of opera to jazz, including a contemporized spiritual and a timeless ballad. The program opened with a BANG with “Blast!” the Grammy-nominated Middle Eastern-tinged instrumental of futuristic world fusion funk that has been begging for a symphonic treatment since it was birthed on his ninth album, Marcus (2008). Not knowing what to expect, the audience was taken by surprise when the huge sounds of the orchestra and quartet filled the Opera House with this musical Molotov cocktail.
Next was a version of Miles Davis’ “So What,” the classic of cool from the master’s groundbreaking 1959 LP Kind of Blue. “The original recording has a beautiful Bill Evans solo piano introduction that most musicians never play when they cover the tune,” Miller states. “I took that intro and gave it a full orchestration that leads into some nice stretched out playing from Alex Han on alto sax and Federico Gonzalez Peña on piano. I loved the contrast between the orchestra and DJ Logic on turntables. The string players were looking at him like, ‘What’s that he’s doing?’ while Logic was glancing over his shoulder, blown away by what they were playing. That’s what this was all about.”
Next is a beautiful rendition of “I Loves You Porgy” from the Gershwin opera Porgy & Bess that features Miller playing the bittersweet melody on fretless bass – a tasty contrast as couched by the strings. Then the orchestra takes a break as Miller introduces one-man band Raul Midón to the stage to sing “State of Mind,” a song that the blind singer/songwriter/guitarist recorded as the title track of the 2005 CD that launched him into the mainstream. Midón often performs the song alone simulating drums on the body of his guitar and the sound of a trumpet with his lips. Here, Marcus accompanies him on bass with Peña adding udu (an African percussion instrument). “What Raul does is amazing and this tune has a great energy,” says Miller.
When the orchestra returns, it is to accompany one of the finest living jazz trumpet players, Roy Hargrove, on a song that Marcus composed for the great Miles Davis titled “Amandla,” the soaring title track of the acclaimed 1989 follow-up album to the first Miller/Davis collaboration, Tutu. “Roy is one of the baddest trumpet players out there,” Miller shares. “We’re always passing each other in airports and at festivals. When I hosted the North Sea Jazz Cruise, I made sure to invite him as one of my guests. I had to bring him back for this show. His sound is gorgeous on this tune and he really opens up on his solo.” Marcus additionally features Hargrove playing the warmer flugelhorn on a dreamy rendition of the 1941 chestnut “I’m Glad There Is You” – a song Hargrove recorded on his 2000 CD Moment To Moment: Roy Hargrove With Strings.
The second more traditional of the opera pieces follows with a lovely melodic statement from Giacomo Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro (Oh, my dear papa),” a highlight from his 1918 one-act opera Gianni Schicchi. Again, Marcus plays the melody - usually associated with a lyrical soprano voice - on the fretless bass, providing a haunting feeing of déjà vu for the audience within the Opera House. This leads into the grand finale of the festive Brazilian pop classic “Mas Que Nada.” Marcus arranged and produced a soulful version of the song for singer Al Jarreau’s 1994 CD/DVD project Tenderness. He reprises that here - propelled with aplomb by drummer Poogie Bell – as a vehicle for all to return to the stage, with Roy Hargrove trading trumpet lines with Raul Midón’s “voice trumpet.”