Renaissance - Track 1
The genesis for Detroit is a bass line that I realized has been running around in my head for a really long time, like 20 years! This is actually not that unusual for me. People who hang out with me notice that I'm always quietly singing stuff to myself, all day long. I'm not really paying attention to what I'm actually singing. It's more like a life soundtrack. Miles wrote in his autobiography that I walk in rhythm, which made me think, "What is he talking about?" But it's probably because there's music in my head all the time. Maybe when I'm walking, I'm trying to keep tempo with what I'm hearing...
When it's time to start writing new music, I start to pay more attention to my internal soundtrack to see if there's something I can use. Sometimes what I'm hearing ends up being someone else's tune! I remember calling Roberta Flack and telling her I had this great tune and sang it to her. She said, "Oh, I love that song by Ray Parker!" I was, like, "Dang, I just rewrote a Ray Parker tune, that's messed up"
I was at a music convention awhile back (I think it was the NAMM convention) and was checking out a new bass. Every once in awhile I like to walk around at the music conventions and see what's new. To try out a bass, I usually just play whatever's in my head at the time. It's funny, I probably disappoint folks at the conventions because when I'm trying out a bass, I usually don't play anything that I've worked out. I use it as an opportunity to try things out. I just play what's on my mind. Maybe it's because I'm an improviser at heart. Probably sounds like I'm just goofing around. But I have a good time.
Anyway, as I was trying out this new bass, I played what was in my head. Somebody recorded it and put it on the internet. I came across the clip later and said to myself, "Wow, that bass line is cool. I've been hearing that bass line for years, I need to develop it into something!"
That bass line is the first thing you hear on "Detroit". It's an old school bass line, for real. The kind of line you might hear back in the late seventies. After the first statement of the bass line, Adam Agati plays it along with me on the guitar the second time around. When Adam plays it, it turns the bass line into a melody which is really cool. I added a verse section that is a little sweet sounding, kinda pretty...reminds me of something Chaka Khan and Rufus could have turned into a song back in the day. The sweetness of the verse makes it even more funky when we return to the main part. It's like, "Don't worry, we won't stay away from the funk for too long!"
The day before the session, I stopped by a NYC music store and bought an OCD overdrive pedal (I'll buy a pedal from time to time to fool around with - maybe discover something different). I ended up really liking the sound of the OCD pedal and kicked it in towards the end of the bass solo on "Detroit". It gives a nice energy boost to the end of the solo.
Alex Han kills this tune during his alto sax solo. There's a clip on the site of him and me listening back to the take just after having recorded it. You can tell I love what he played. Check it out... http://www.marcusmiller.com/renaissance-recording-sessions/marcus-miller-playback-with-alex-han/
Sometime during the recording of the tune, I was saying things like, "Man, this thing is fonky like Detroit!" I've always considered Detroit as a funky, soulful town. A lot of bad cats come out of Detroit: James Jamerson (the famous bassist for the Motown records), Stevie Wonder, Greg Phillinganes, Wah Wah Watson, Ray Parker, Kenny Garrett, Marvin Gaye and Slim Gaillard (if you're not familiar with Slim, check out his 1930's hits like "Flat Foot Floogie", hilarious and funky). My original title for this tune was, "Fonky Like Detroit". I later shortened it to simply, "Detroit".
We played this tune a couple of weeks ago in Detroit and it was kinda killin. Brandon Rose, a young Detroit bass phenom, 14 years old, sat in with us and he smoked it.
I've had to apologize to some other funky towns (Minneapolis, DC), but maybe I'll get around to doing a tune for you down the road 🙂