A generation is roughly defined as a period of about 30 years. 30 years ago in the early 80s - America was rolling with Ronald Reagan at the wheel and his conservative back to family values tenets. A similar traditionalism was also being adopted by several prominent up-and-coming jazz musicians. While most of the then-young flock was looking back, Marcus Miller was looking ahead. By the middle of that decade in 1986, Marcus - the musician, composer and producer - was at the helm of one of the most impactful modern jazz masterpieces of the era with some futuristic roots music he composed for the legendary Miles Davis entitled Tutu.
Now with Renaissance in 2012, Marcus Miller surveys the landscape of not just music but society as a whole. In the same profound way that anointed gospel-soul singer Sam Cooke prophesized 50 years before in 1963, Miller feels that a change is gonna come. And just as with Tutu, he is ahead of the storm with Renaissance, fortified by a team of hungry young players that includes trumpeters Sean Jones and Maurice Brown, alto saxophonist Alex Han, drummer Louis Cato, guitarists Adam Agati and Adam Rogers, and keyboardist Kris Bowers along with veteran keys wizards Federico Gonzalez Peña and Bobby Sparks, Miller is creating the soundtrack for this musical, cultural and spiritual revolution.
I feel like a page is turning, Miller muses. The last of our heroes are checking out and we are truly entering a new era. Politically, things have polarized and are coming to a head. Musically, we ve got all these cool ways to play and share music - MP3 files, internet radio and satellite radio - but the music is not as revolutionary as the media. It s time for a rebirth.
Renaissance finds Miller offering up an especially emotive 13-song collection that includes eight richly inspired original compositions that swing from a tip of the porkpie to the CTI Records sound of the `70s ( CEE-TEE-EYE ) to an introspective and ultimately hope-filled rumination about the island off the coast of Dakar in Africa known as Gorée (Go-ray). Renaissance also includes five cover songs that canvas works by soul-jazz culture band WAR, new wave-soul starlet Janelle Monáe, New York jazz dignitary Weldon Irvine, Brazilian musical ambassador Ivan Lins and Christian composer Luther Mano Hanes. Though the CD primarily features Miller s smokin new band, it also features special guest vocalists Dr. John, Rubén Blades and Gretchen Parlato.
Renaissance is a word that resonates on a lot of different levels for me, Miller explains. It s about getting back to the essential aspects of art. I m focusing less on production and more on composition, so this is a very clear album for me. People have often called me a Renaissance Man. I always understood that to mean someone who s got their creative hands in a lot of different things but not on a surface level. Like Leonardo da Vinci: he wasn t just dabbling in things, he was going deep. I would really like to be that kind of guy. Over the past three decades of my career, I ve been blessed to produce a wide variety of music that means something to people. I didn t just do some clichés in different genres, like a guy who says he can speak 20 languages but all he s saying is how are you and can I get something to eat. The real challenge is can you communicate something of substance to the people through these languages that you speak?