Marcus Miller is one of contemporary music's renaissance men. A much sought-after producer (by both pop and jazz acts), he also is a powerful improviser and an originator of the influential string-snapping style of bass playing.
It was the latter Miller persona that was on display at Catalina Bar & Grill Tuesday night, and the crowd loved it. Every time Miller charged into one of his funky New York snap tunes the overflow audience roared with enthusiasm.
But Miller is too sophisticated an artist to rely on crowd-pleasing virtuosity alone. The real musical highlights of his opening set--pieces such as "The King Is Gone," a tribute to his former boss, Miles Davis--were touched with far more subtle timbral and rhythmic colorations.
Miller was well served by most of his players, especially Bernard Wright, who mustered an extraordinary array of sounds from his keyboards, and veteran drummer Lenny White, still a cutting-edge performer. Among the others, Michael Stewart may be the first trumpeter to exhibit major influence (musically and visually) from the Miles Davis of the '80s, but he did so with considerable creativity. And saxophonist Everett Harp took full advantage of the opportunity to perform with an energizing rhythm section.
* Marcus Miller at Catalina Bar & Grill, 1640 N. Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood (213 466-2210). $15 cover tonight; $20 Friday, Saturday and Sunday with two drink minimum. Miller plays two sets each night.