Marcus Miller live Royal Festival Hall

'Can I just ask how many bassists are in the audience?' was the opening statement of vibrant overseer Jumoké Fashola as she spoke excitedly of what the evening had in store... a third of the audience raised their hands. Tonight, Marcus Miller returns to London for the first time since his impressive Afrodeezia show in 2015 for another, equally storming set of music spanning an entire career and indeed beyond.

Ashley Henry and his trio commenced the evening's music. Ashley is one of a new generation of musicians working with the fresh and exciting label Jazzre:freshed. At only 24, Ashley plays the piano with a creativity and conviction usually achieved from a lifetime deeply involved in the art of jazz. Tonight, Henry, the mellow bass tones of Daniel Casimir and solid drumming of Eddie Hick dominates the stage. Though strikingly humble, Henry plays a strong set of hip, satisfying compositions firmly exceeding the expectations of Miller's fans.

This evening, Miller is joined by the rich comping of Pasquale Strizzi on keyboards, Marquis Hill's effortless trumpet playing, the intensely melodic soloing of Alex Han (above with Miller) on saxophone and Alex Bailey's fiery drumming – perhaps a little out of his depth on some tunes, still, mistakes were mostly compensated for by Miller's consistently driving groove.

Tonight's performance demonstrates Miller's musical versatility and simply demands praise. We hear punchy slap bass classics - 'Hylife' and alike - on Miller's four-string as well as lovely resonant phrases on the five-string fretless, often reminiscent of some of Jaco's lines. It is not easy to make the bass sing like Marcus and tonight's gorgeous arrangement of classic Gershwin standard 'I Loves You Porgy' reminds us of Miller's melodic ear. Similarly, Miller's nimble jazz lines on bass clarinet during 'Preacher's Kid, a song dedicated to his father, were impressive and unexpected – somewhat of a party-trick for those yet to see Marcus live!

There is brilliant interaction between Han, Hill and Miller with Han playing persistently exciting solos, holding notes when they sound great and letting loose when the moment calls for it. Hill upholds an impressive, pure tone which accompanies his classic bebop/hip-hop infused lines as heard on Miller's arrangement of 'Night In Tunisia'. The end of a deeply funky set called for an encore of epic proportions. Miller ended with 'Blast!', tuned his bass to a drop D pedal, and played a fascinating fusion of eastern harmony with a classic funky feel - indeed a brilliant way to end the show!

– Rosie Frater-Taylor

– Photo by Tim Dickeson

The Write Stuff

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