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Reviews and dispatches from Montreal #FIJM 2022 (3): Marcus Miller Group plus Paolo Angeli

Marcus Miller Group plus Paolo Angeli

(Theatre Maisonneuve, Montreal. 1 July 2022. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

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Marcus Miller (with Alexis Lombre). Photo credit Victor Diaz Lamich/ FIJM

Marcus Miller is a jazz star who absolutely loves to tour. The rest of July has no fewer than fourteen European dates lined up (so long as pedants let me include the first of those in the Harpa in Reykjavik). There will be three nights at Ronnie Scott’s.

By all appearances, for Miller, 63 is the new 40. The business of just being on stage, running the band, running the show, strutting on the spot as he plays, all that seems to energise and rejuvenate him. Trumpeter Russell Gunn, keyboard/piano Julian Pollack, alto sax Donald Hayes, drummer Cedric Moore and keyboard/piano Alexis Lombre (*) and Miller himself has just come off quite a few US dates; it is great to hear a band that is quite so thoroughly played-in.

Miller knows exactly which buttons to press, and has the instinct to ensure that the audience is kept involved at every moment. He has that instinct of knowing when to raise the temperature, how to pace a show. And it all comes from the experience, and the evident joy he has in communicating the music. And a Montreal crowd responds: as the energy level rose, the standing ovations kept coming. This was a masterpiece in how to thrill a crowd.

We recently published an amazing piece by fellow bassist Richie Goods about what he hears in Marcus Miller’s playing. It is HERE to enjoy!

Paolo Angeli. Phone snap.

Paolo Angeli, from Sardinia, was a new name at least to me. He is a musician for whom there seem to be no musical barriers. Equipped with a curious, amplifiable Sardinian baritone guitar, loop pedals and an eclectic imagination, an instrumentalist like Angeli really can go (musically) anywhere. He bows the instrument and makes it sound like a viol and plays galliards on it. He can produce scarily loud noise effects on it that would make even an out-there Icelandic bedroom collective disappear back under their duvets. He can pick out Jaco Pastorius-like bass figures. He can sing to it – admittedly with the voice of the kind of muezzin who expects to draw his faithful indoors more with the sincerity of his message than the beauty of his voice. He also does curious mime effects à la Marcel Marceau, the point of which was slightly lost on me. That said, I could feel the audience really willing him on, once he had started to develop a bit of flamenco rhythmic drive, and I was curious what the reaction would be at the end. A 40-ish minute solo set in a venue with 1,450 capacity when nobody is quite sure what they have signed up for is not without risk, to say the least. It was clear that the supportive and warm Montreal audience had taken him to their hearts.

(*) Alexis Lombre is part of the Next Jazz Legacy program, a partnership between New Music USA and the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice with support from the Mellon Foundation

Categories: Live reviews

3 replies »

  1. I wasnt at the concert of Paolo Angeli but i know his music well and I found your review of his concert in Montreal a bit condescending. Maybe you are not aware of the tradition if Sardinian music which are his roots, particularly the vocal and guitar traditions. When you liken his voice fr instance to the call to prayer familiar to all muslims you do so in seemingly disparaging way. Paolo is responsible for archiving Sardinian music that was recorded since recording began. He strums sometimes but in the Sardinian guitar tradition which, if you knew anything about Flamenco guitar, has nothing to do with that. If his ‘strumming’ had to do with any other Mediterranean style look towards Maltese Ghanna music, which shares many improvisational similarities to Sardinian music. Both are islands and have a shared history. His guitar preparation is unique and I feel you dismissed him too lightly. He doesn’t fit into the Berkeley School of Jazz idea of what improvisation is but then neither do many improvisors, particularly Europeans.

    • This is such a helpful and well-informed comment. I really appreciate the opportunity to learn and to broaden my horizons. (Sebastian)

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