Monday, October 20, 2014

Week 40

The Ozell Tapes by Marcus Miller

So in my experience, owning bootleg copies of live performances is usually fun only for the novelty of it. Usually they're low quality recordings that feature the artist making lame jokes or having dialogue with someone sitting in the front row, which is unique, but really not fun to listen to. Thankfully Mr. Miller's bootleg album, The Ozell Tapes breaks the mold.

After the intro from Doug Epting, Miller launches into a super-funky groove called "Power." Funky bass, tasty synth, and crispy horn stabs courtesy of Roger Byam and Patches Stewart lock it in! For a live recording, this group is tight. This tune along with most on the album have a very 'Snarky-Puppy-before-there-was-Snarky-Puppy" thing going on.

Next up are two covers in a row: "So What" and "Lonnie's Lament." The Davis tune starts a little loosely, but soon resembles the tune you know. It's been giving the funk treatment and probably the coolest one I've ever heard. My head was bobbin' in about 10 seconds. Trumpet, tenor, guitar, organ, and bass get solos and they are all tight! "Lament" is a ballad by John Coltrane that represents a nice break in the action. It's still pretty funky, but at least it's a slow funk. I can dig on it, although to me, it's not really a standout on this record. Gets a little directionless at times.

Following "Lonnie" is a tasty joint called "Cousin John." I don't know who John is, but he must be a funky man. Some Funky Knuckle-esque half-time funk that really yields some quality solo time for the ol' string players and Mr. Poogie Bell on kit. 

Next is one of my favorites from the album, "Scoop." Heavy, raw, gritty, funk. I'm immediately reminded of the Budos Band if you're familiar. Just a smokin' riff from Marcus and tasty background contributions from the horn section. Although it's one of the album's longer tunes (12+ minutes), it maintains a high energy level and I guess that's why I can't skip it.

Finishing out the first disc are "I Loves You Porgy," and "Panther." "Porgy" is a tune I'm unfamiliar with, but I can tell you Marcus' version is killer. It's the first real ballad we've gotten and it's just... sexy. "Panther" is a more well-known Miller tune and it's groovin' as always. An open bass solo gives Marcus a chance to show off. Also a little crowd involvement gets the energy hoppin' on this tune. Definitely a sweet end to the first set.

First tune, second set: "3 Deuces." Be prepared to groove your face off.

Next up is the second coolest treatment of Amazing Grace I've ever heard (MMSW is hard to beat!) Sax solo gives way to some free jazz-esque grooving until Mrs. Lalah Hathaway takes over just before the 5:00 mark. Girl's on top of it. Also, if I'm not mistaken, Marcus solos a little on the ol' soprano sax on this one.

Following is another one of my favorites from the album, "Nikki's Groove." Just awesome-sauce. It's one that he wrote for his daughter. Very Snarky Puppy-soudning again. Smooth jazz meets fusion meets Tower of Power. Check it.

Track number four from the second set is called "When Your Life Was Low." This sexy ballad gives Marcus and Lalah chances to sing. It's a very cool tune. That's all I have to say about that.

Last favorite: funkdefied cover of "Burnin' Down the House." I'm not sure I can describe it. Whether it's the voicings from the horns or the backgrounds, or Miller's playing, or something else, this tune always makes me smile. Give it a listen. Dean Brown on guitar and Marcus both take some face-melting solos on this one. Definitely not one to pass up.

Third from the end is "People Make the World Go Round." Poogie is layin' down a  sweet groove on skins and Marcus is singing! Despite its cool sound, I'm not a big fan. Just doesn't hit me in the groove-bone like the others from this recording.

Next to last, "Killing Me Softly." Heck. Yes. Lalah doin' it big.

The concert ends with a medley of Miles and Marcus tunes called "Hannibal/Amandla/Tutu." The ethereal intro gives way to some soft groovin' which gives way to some harder groovin' around the 5:00 minute mark. Cool trumpet soloing in this section and some wide open drum soloing. This tune alternates between loud, heavy, raucous sections and soft, gentle solos from the horn players. Kind of a weird way to end a concert if you ask me, but then again... you didn't.

All in all, this is one of my new favorite live recordings of any concert. It's also one of only a handful that I can listen to top to bottom and enjoy every song. Give ol' Marcus a listen if you need a reason to shake your groove thing.

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