Had Marcus Miller chosen a more fusion-centric path, it's quite possible that he would have become as iconic among fusion heads as Jaco Pastorius or Miroslav Vitous. Miller certainly knows his way around his electric bass, and he probably would have been a great addition to Return to Forever if Stanley Clarke had been unavailable for their 2008 reunion tour and Chick Corea had offered him the gig. But that is speculation, of course. What we can say with certainty is that being hell-bent for fusion is not the path chosen by the highly eclectic, broad-minded Miller, who is as well known for his work with Luther Vandross and for co-writing E.U.'s 1988 funk/go-go hit "Da Butt" as he is for the composing, producing, and playing he did on Miles Davis' Tutu and Amandla albums in the `80s. Nonetheless, Miller is quite capable of playing jazz when he wants to, and jazz is the main ingredient on A Night in Monte Carlo. Documenting a November 29, 2008 appearance in Monte Carlo, Monaco, this 63-minute CD unites Miller with the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra as well as with trumpeter/fl?gelhornist Roy Hargrove. Occasionally, A Night in Monte Carlo steps outside of jazz; "State of Mind" and "Your Amazing Grace" (both of which feature singer Ra?l Mid?n) are essentially vocal R&B. But instrumental jazz of the electric fusion variety dominates this concert, and the fact that Miller is operating in a very orchestral environment doesn't mean that there isn't room for stretching and improvising on memorable performances of Davis' "So What," George Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy," Jimmy Dorsey's "I'm Glad There Is You" and Amandla's title track. Some of those tunes have been beaten to death over the years, but not by fusion artists, and Miller manages to keep things intriguing even on some extremely familiar warhorses. A Night in Monte Carlo is not recommended to jazz purists; this is mainly jazz, but it's jazz with rock, funk, and hip-hop elements. Fusion lovers, however, will be delighted to hear Miller in this electric jazz-oriented environment. ~ Alex Henderson
JazzTimes (p.56) - "In Miller's hands, variously wrapped around fretted and fretless Fender Jazz basses and bass clarinet, the eclecticism comes off as natural and inspired."