Pittsburgh-born bassist Richie Goods has a massive and varied experience and discography: the Headhunters, Lenny White, Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band, Milt Jackson, Russell Malone, Vincent Herring, the Manhattan Transfer and Walter Beasley, Polly Gibbons Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera and Alicia Keys….
Among the formative experiences were his studies with Ron Carter and Ray Brown, and nine years playing and touring with Mulgrew Miller, who called him “my left hand man.(*)”
For the LJN “10 Tracks I can’t do without” series, in which jazz musicians do a deep (and entirely personal and selective) dive into the music of their idols, Richie Goods picks some of his favourite moments of MARCUS MILLER.
“Run for Cover” from Straight to the Heart by David Sanborn (1984)
This song has sentimental value to me because it’s where I first discovered Marcus Miller. This is not Marcus’ most dynamic solo but it is a definitive solo that I feel every bass player that’s interested in slap bass should learn. This is standard slap 101 but still is impressive because the time and feel is so spot on and the tone is one of the prettiest ever (at least at that time). In the beginning of the tune Marcus sets us up with a short, pretty and soulful finger solo then bursts into a super funky slap baseline to set up the melody for Sanborn. Immediately after the melody we are back to more bass where Marcus really takes his time and builds his solo.
2 “Power” (Live at Festival Jazz Lugano 2008)
This is the first time I heard Marcus use the “down/up” thumb technique which comes just a few years after Victor Wooten came on the scene using that same technic. I think it’s awesome to see the king of slap bass take his game even higher by checking out the new blood (Victor Wooten) on the scene and incorporating that in his playing.
3. “Come Together” from Tales (1995)
I’ve always loved The Beatles but never thought of any of their songs as “funky”. It’s funny how Marcus takes this song and doesn’t change much but just by his very presence the song is instantly funky. He does this with so many other songs in all different genres including John Coltranes “Lonnie’s Lament”, Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein”, Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” and many others.
4. “Wait for Love” from The Night I Fell in Love – Luther Vandross (1985)
Slapping the bass on a ballad!? Who does that!? This became a signature sound of Luther Vandross, one of the greatest R&B singers of our time (or of my time). Once again Mr. Miller breaks new ground and shows another way to approach a ballad on the bass.
5. “Tutu” Miles Davis
Classic Miles Davis. This song has become a new standard and every bass player should know this bass line and the Miller Fretless bass fills. One of the things I love the most about Marcus Miller is his versatility. He is a producer, arranger, composer, writes film scores, plays multiple instruments (and is a really nice guy).
6. “Bruce Lee” from Silver Rain (2005)
Chops! Lawd Hamercy! He really takes this solo to another level! His “down/up” technique is really amazing and flashy while really saying something and maintaining the groove. This is simply out of this world. Bruce Lee is a very appropriate title for the song because Marcus is kicking ass and they are both definitely GOATs.
7. “Gorée” from Renaissance (2012)
Such a beautiful and heartfelt composition where Marcus really shows off his skills on bass clarinet, fretless bass and also upright bass. This song takes me to another place and shows off his composition skills. I’ve heard from some of the guys in Marcus’ band that he wrote this after he took the whole band on a trip to the Island of Gorée off the Senegalese coast which was the biggest slave trading center in Africa. I’ve added the studio and the live performance link. I love this version of Marcus’ band that has a lot of my personal friends there killing it.
LIVE VERSION FROM NORTH SEA JAZZ 2015
(Drums Louis Cato; Soprano Saxophone Alex Han; Trumpet Lee Hogans; Guitar Adam Agati; Piano/Keyboards Brett Williams; Percussion Mino Cinelu)
8. “Teen Town” from The Sun Don’t Lie (1993)
Now I’m being a total bass nerd but it’s really awesome to see one bass God pay tribute to another bass God. On this record “The Sun Don’t Lie” Marcus writes a song called “Mr. Pastorius” and also does a cover of Jaco’s song “Teen Town” that was made famous by Weather Report. This comes at a time when most bass players were still trying to figure out how to play this song the regular way – then Marcus totally flips the script and did something totally unheard of by playing the whole song slap. Even his solo on this track is super melodic with still only using his thumb
9. “Let it flow” from Winelight – Grover Washington Jr. (1980)
This was pretty early Marcus Miller but he was already putting his stamp on everything he touched. After playing with Bobbi Humphrey at age 17 or 18 he started to work with Grover Washington Jr. just a few years later and added his classic bright slap sound to Grover’s music. Man… after the head of the tune Marcus turns up the funk level.
10. “Fat Time” from The Man with the Horn – Miles Davis (1981)
This was one of Miles Davis’ first records after taking a little break. Here Marcus shows off his fusion skills on a kind of walking baseline. The bass part on this song is way more difficult than it seems. Playing mostly quarter notes sounds pretty simple but if it doesn’t groove then it doesn’t sound like much. Damn, the bass sounds so good on this tune and Marcus won’t let that groove go! He carries this whole tune and totally holds it down with flair.
(*) “My Left Hand Man”, the most recent album from The Goods Project, was released in September 2020, and is a tribute to Mulgrew Miller (LINK)
Richie Goods will be launching a new single, in a duo with Chien Chien Lu, on 7 December
LINK: Richie Goods’ website