https://www.amazon.com/Marcus-Miller/e/B000APXTVW

Slain by modern jazz album ‘Laid Black’

Jazz is a genre usually associated with Christmas and the first half of the 1900s, created by black Americans and loved by all – at least in the past. Though its days in the sun have waned, Marcus Miller is one contemporary artist who demonstrates the continuing power of jazz music.

On my flight from Paris to Nairobi, I plugged in the Air France earbuds to the plane’s free music collection and chose some familiar jazz tunes. Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole crooned through their albums as I soared over Europe. Though I say I love jazz, my repertoire is honestly pretty minimal, just the aforementioned classics, Sinatra, Doris Day, and such.

Wanting to change that, I tapped on Marcus Miller’s 2018 “Laid Black” album, one I had never heard, and was immediately swept away.

https://serious.org.uk/events/marcus-miller-rfh-2019

Photo from serious.org.uk

How often does a song or album make one drop everything and work to keep composure? On a monthly basis, yearly? Marcus Miller’s “Laid Black” evokes this reaction throughout the album.

Track one, “Trip Trap,” carried me to summer parks with big bands playing. I would be thrilled to hear this song on a Sunday evening at City Park in Denver.

If the initial track transported me, the next one slayed me. Selah Sue features in Miller’s unique rendition of “Que Sera Sera” that caused my mouth to form a shocked and grateful sort of smile while my eyes opened in amazement and teared at the edges.

It is the kind of song I would want to replay with my eyes closed a few times and then dance to once I had picked myself up off the floor. In fact, I did replay the song and the entire album. Oh. Le. Le. What a piece of beauty.

Track three, “7-Ts,” begins with a Miller’s skilled bass line before artist Trombone Shorty enters. “Sublimity ‘Bunny’s Dream’,” the next on the album, continues with Marcus Miller’s brassy melodies in a mellow tune with light drum brushes.

Next up, “Untamed” starts with keys like that of a trap song, running do-mi-re-so-mi-fa, adds a bass melody, and continues to a steady beat with some filler brass. It takes the album from the big band era into 2018 and ends with piano.

A person can jive to the next track, “No Limit,” in which Miller continues to favor his bass. His use of brass harks back to West African music’s influence on African Americans and the music they have created over the centuries, and particularly in jazz.

 

On track seven he uses a guitar melody to tap into a melancholy chord. You will want to slow dance with your lover to “Somebody to Love” as Miller’s soft vocals come in over the piano. The song stirred a beautiful sort of sadness within me as I flew over Greece a world away from my own “someone.”

Miller’s album continues with the more upbeat “Keep ‘Em Running,” which mixes jazz with some old school rap and a hint of scatting. The man is astounding.

As a preacher’s kid, I was interested in the ninth and final track by this name. The song, running 7 minutes and 43 seconds, is the longest on the album. It begins with a capella “ooos” before building in instruments. Saxophones cross over each other, wailing for the spotlight in the sixth minute before voices hum to a close on this primarily instrumental album.

 

I’m shook. Tracks two and seven captured me in particular, and the big band sounds crossing with other genres throughout the album remind the listener that jazz is still a part of contemporary black history and thus contemporary American history. Miller’s integration of styles over jazz eras is simply incredible, and the entire album leaves me amazed and wanting more.

Thank you, Marcus Miller, for creating such a beautiful and powerful work of art, one with the ability to bring together both couples and communities. Thank you for your excellence and for adding beauty to our lives.

 

 

~~~

Cover image from https://www.amazon.com/Marcus-Miller/e/B000APXTVW

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Ten things I love about Denver

While I’m not a native Coloradan, I lived in Denver during a life-changing summer two years ago. Now I am back for a bit, and I am so happy. Here are ten things I love about this city, culminating with number 10.

  1. Public transportation.

    Riding the bus is inexpensive and provides the opportunity to people watch, rest from a fulfilling day or observe the city itself through discolored windows. I feel independent when I take the RTD, and I learn about social dynamics by observing where people sit and how they speak to each other. If you’re from a city, you can probably relate.

  2. Sunshine.

    If I could define Denver in a word, I would say yellow. Yellow defines the feel of the summer sun on my skin, the invisible color of the air, the feeling I have while living here – due in part to the serotonin-boosting sunshine. As John Denver croons, “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.” Even his name reinforces how the sun connects to this Coloradan city!

  3. Mountains.

    The Rockies awe me with their majesty, the majesty that reflects their Creator. Although I behold them daily, they have not lost their splendor. They always provide me with some metaphor, and they draw me closer to God. In this city, they also help me find my way since I can always know which way is west. As a directionally challenged person, I appreciate that.

    Denver blog view from LFS office

    The view from my office, PC: KSB

  4. My internship.

    I could write blogs upon blogs about my internship. I work with refugees who are resettling in the United States, and I love showing up to work every morning. My coworkers are caring, relational, hard-working and fun, and I relish being surrounded by their many languages. I hear a lot of Arabic in particular, and one of the case managers is teaching me Kiswahili since I am on my way to the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is my second time interning here, and each time I’ve been thrown into learning and doing. I could go on forever about how amazing my internship is, but I’ll move on from describing my amazing weekdays to the event that makes my weekends so fabulous.

  5. Jazz in the Park.

    For ten consecutive Sundays each summer, thousands of people gather in City Park to hear live jazz and consume cuisine from the food trucks. Elderly couples and children dance together by the gazebo, and families hold picnics by the algae-covered lake. Whether chatting with friends or vibing to the music alone, I love the atmosphere.

    Denver blog leaving Jazz in the Park

    Leaving Jazz in the Park, PC: KSB

  6. Old friends.

    Since I lived here two years ago, I have been able to reconnect with people whom I met during a formative time in my life. I have enjoyed catching up with old friends, having fun in community and being near people who can build me up in my faith. These friends vary in age from children to people more than twice my age, and some even call me family.

  7. Walking.

    I appreciate the calf muscles I have been able to sustain by walking; I like feeling strong. While walking is obviously a good way to travel from place to place, exercise or release stress, it is also conducive to exploring. Immersing oneself in Denver’s shops and neighborhoods is easier by foot than by car since it allows for more spontaneity and closeness to the details that characterize Denver. What you discover will depend on where you walk and how open you keep your eyes and heart.

    Denver blog Izzy and me at Juneteenth 2016

    Izzy and I at the Juneteenth Festival, PC: KSB

  8. Festivals every weekend.

    There’s always something to do in the city. With many of these events free and public transportation so easily accessible, Denverites have no reason to be bored. Although I am a bit of a homebody, I also find it healthy to get out of the apartment and explore. I particularly enjoy the cultural festivals such as the one in Five Points celebrating Juneteenth Independence Day. Participating with friends makes the deal even better.

  9. 16th Street Mall.

    Street musicians fill the air with sweet melodies, and public pianos beckon from the center of every block; it is basically the dream. The street is always crowded, which makes it a great place to observe or potentially make connections. (I once met a man who works for the Denver Voice, the homeless newspaper based in my building, while heading toward the movie theater there.) For consumers, 16th Street Mall is the place to satisfy physical hunger, find any item one may desire or simply browse the windows. The mall bus is free and can take you closer to your destination if you’re not in the mood to walk.

    Denver blog 16th St Mall

    A group of activists on 16th Street Mall, PC: KSB

  10. Diversity of people.

    This plays into almost all my previous points in some way. Living with a family of another race and nationality, learning about my friends’ religions in a setting where we all respect each other and can make civil and genuine conversation, appreciating global cultures daily through my friends’ food and the city’s festivals, the buzz during Pridefest when rainbow flags decorated all of Colfax and hundreds of thousands of people from around the country came to celebrate – I do not experience most of these things in my wealthy, white suburban college town, but in Denver I am surrounded by diversity of all forms.

    I am learning so much in this city, and I am thriving off the diversity in which I live. Even if you do not live in a city, I encourage you to seek this out. A trip to Denver won’t hurt either.

What are some things you love about Denver? Comment below!