Recorded at Hannibal Studios, Santa Monica, CA, Camel Island Studios, Los Angeles, CA, Hit Factory and The Dornmitory, New York, NY, Absolut Beats, Dallas, TX, Vertical Sound Studio, Nashville, TN and Olympic Studio 1, London
Mixed at Hannibal Studios, Santa Monica, CA and Hit Factory, New York, NY
This album was recorded and edited on a Macintosh G4 using Pro Logic
All Music Guide
"I came across the poem in a Langston Hughes collection," Miller states. "The poem is about spring, but it was the title that really inspired me. It could go so many other places. To me, it meant music washing over you....making you forget all of your pain and fear. I began writing a song with that in mind." Marcus started the uplifting, reggae-drenched piece about 7 years ago with the intention of recording it on an album for Eric Clapton. He had gotten to know the legendary blues rock singer/guitarist pretty well touring Europe with a one-off band called Legends (Clapton, Miller, keyboardist Joe Sample, saxophonist David Sanborn and drummer Steve Gadd). Communication lapses and both men's hectic schedules prohibited Eric from recording his vocal until early 2005 in London. In the interim, the song morphed through several beautiful transformations, including lyrical contributions from singer/songwriters Joey Kibble of Take 6, neo soul man Kem and the legendary Bill Withers. Kenny Garrett also contributes a stirring alto sax solo.
The essence of "Silver Rain," however, sprang from Marcus and the image of nearly 100,000 people raising lighters at an outdoor Bob Marley concert in Europe. "My engineer Dennis Thompson, who was Marley's engineer, told me Bob sang 'No Woman No Cry' and even people in nearby buildings held candles out of their windows, lighting up the whole area and filling it with this heat. It shows you how powerful music is. I don't know how many of those people could fully understand the details of what Bob was singing about, but they could feel the music. This is the year of Bob's 60th birthday. It's the perfect time for this song."
No stranger to out of body experiences, the highly chameleonic and influential Miller has played an integral role in the careers of no less than Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, David Sanborn and many other legendary artists. Around the world, he has astounded music lovers with his masterful, earthy and ever passionate approach to music making. One can rest assured he knows the intricacies and complexities of what Jimi Hendrix was riffing on in his composition "Power of Soul," another gem that Marcus interprets on Silver Rain. "I've seen what music can do," he confesses. "After certain gigs, people would walk up to me holding a 3-year-old boy and say, 'This is Marcus.' I think, 'My goodness. My music was that powerful and meant that much to them...helped them through a period of their life.' Once that happens to you a couple of times, you get a little more reverent about what you're doing."
Silver Rain is yet another profoundly eclectic yet firmly cohesive album from Miller - one that finds him bringing as much moodily evocative beauty to a bluesy flip on Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" (inspired by hearing his son practicing the piano piece at home - and featuring Lucky Peterson playing some soul-searing electric blues guitar) as he does Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" (a solo tour de force with Marcus on bass clarinet, fretless bass and keyboards) or Stevie Wonder's "Boogie on Reggae Woman" (marinating in a groove with Kirk Whalum on tenor sax, drummer Poogie Bell and Apple computer DJ wizard Mocean Worker).
No matter how reverent Marcus can be, he exists in ever-present readiness to get down. He and his road band (guitarist Dean Brown, trumpeter Michael "Patches" Stewart, saxophonist Roger Byam, drummer Poogie Bell, and keyboardists Bernard Wright and Bruce Flowers) have a ball taking you to the proverbial 'late night TV commercial break' with a ferocious whirl through Edgar Winter's earth shakin' rock-n-roll oldie "Frankenstein" (one of countless sound check jams). Later, the inimitable Macy Gray lays her unmistakable vocal stamp on the sophisticated funk of Prince's "Girls and Boys" as Marcus transfers the melody and the bass line to his electric bass and bass clarinet, respectively. "I needed someone you could recognize and feel in the first few notes," Marcus muses. "Macy's face just popped into my mind."
Speaking of one-of-a-kind voices, Eartha Kitt's is found on the solo bass opener "Intro Duction" on which the legendary singer/actress wanly purrs, "Marcus, darling," a signature line sampled from the now classic 1992 African American comedy "Boomerang" (among the first films for which Miller composed the score). "People leave that on my answering machine all the time," Miller shares. "So I decided to flip it on them and open up my album with it!"
In addition to the title track "Silver Rain," Marcus composed five pieces himself, four of which were created during a whirlwind European tour: "La Villette" (with a romantic lyric of longing penned and sung by his longtime friend Lalah Hathaway with spellbinding vocals by operatic tenor Kenn Hicks), "Behind the Smile," "Make Up My Mind" and the brief interlude "Paris" (all of which feature the haunting sound of the inventive Swiss harmonica player Gregoire Maret). "When I realized I was going on another tour," Marcus reflects, "I started writing in whatever town I was in. I got a lot done alone in a hotel room in Paris....just vibing off the city. The thing about France is, when you first get there, it's all about romance - the Paris you see in the movies. But the longer you stay, the funk starts rising up. Check out all the North African people that live there. There's a lot of soulfulness in Paris. You'll hear all sorts of sounds coming out of the city streets."
Particularly inspired is a number Marcus composed back at his own Hannibal studios in Santa Monica, California called "Bruce Lee," featuring Gerald Albright on alto sax. "My engineer plays martial arts tapes while we're mixing," Marcus begins with a chuckle. "Even though he kept the sound off, at first, it was distracting. I'd keep looking up and seeing people getting knocked out! Then Enter the Dragon came on and I started thinking, 'Bruce Lee fights like a jazz musician. He doesn't know what he's gonna do until he's in the middle of it; he fights like he's improvising. He sees an opportunity and he takes advantage of it. That's what jazz cats do - they see a hole and fill it with something good on the spot.' I went right in the other room and wrote that tune within an hour."
"There are two ways to get things done," Miller continues,. "You can just do it, or you can do it artfully. When people in my neighborhood play basketball, two points were not as important as how you got to those two points. Did you do it with some style, some grace and some swerve?"
Style, soul and intense professionalism have set Marcus Miller at the top of his game for well over two decades now. He was born in 1959 and raised in a musical family that included his father (a church organist and choir director) and jazz pianist Wynton Kelly. By 13, Marcus was proficient on clarinet, piano and bass guitar, and already writing songs. Two years later he was working regularly in New York City, eventually playing bass and writing music for flutist Bobbi Humphrey and keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith. Miller soon became a top call New York session musician, gracing well over 400 albums, recorded with musicians and in countries around the globe. A short list includes Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Grover Washington Jr., Donald Fagen, Bill Withers, Chaka Khan, Me'shell NdegeOcello and LL Cool J.
The breadth of his collaborative talents were best showcased in his work with soul man Luther Vandross (contributing to well over half of his albums as a producer, composer and/or player on hits such as "Any Love," "Never Too Much" and "The Power of Love," which won Miller the 1991 Grammy for R&B Song of the Year), David Sanborn (for whom his compositions "Chicago Song" and "Voyeur" helped the saxophonist make an indelible imprint on contemporary jazz), and the legendary Miles Davis (for whom he became the primary collaborator of his latter years, composing and producing his last classic signature, "Tutu"). Miller has often stated that the number one thing he learned from Davis is always being honest about who you are and what you do.
This served him well when he began focusing on his own recordings with 1993's The Sun Don't Lie and 1995's Tales, both of which found him brilliantly connecting the dots of Black music's evolution. Following a fan-demanded Live and More in 1997, Miller released M2 ("M-Squared") on his own 3 Deuces Records label and won the 2001 Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Film scoring is another artistic muscle Miller has been flexing over the years, including scores for the comedies House Party (Martin Lawrence), Head of State (Chris Rock) and the upcoming King's Ransom (Anthony Anderson). He composed the club smash "Da Butt" for Washington, D.C. Go-Go music band EU in Spike Lee's film School Daze, and also scored The Trumpet of The Swan, an animated rendering of children's author E.B. White's cherished tale.
True to his innovative spirit, Marcus Miller's next project is something he first thought about doing 15 years ago: a melding of classical opera and modern jazz in collaboration with operatic tenor and acclaimed vocal coach Kenn Hicks. Titled Avanti, it contains artful reinventions of music from several of the great arias. Relating this renegade spirit back to the evolution found throughout Silver Rain, Miller stresses, "There's a fine line between playing the same stuff all the time and coming from the same place all the time. I make an effort to try to approach things the same way. If I'm playing jazz or opera or reggae, I still sound like I'm from Jamaica, Queens, New York - that aggressive, in-your-face style. I can do stuff from all over the place and not worry about my album falling apart. I know that my sound will unify it."
What Marcus Miller has accomplished with Silver Rain is create contemporary inspirational music as only Marcus Miller can. "Right now I think what we need is some joy," he concludes. "We're going through a lot, but we will get through the craziness. And this music will help."
-A. Scott Galloway