today It is the one of the jazz artists most respected in the world. After having played on nearly 500 albums – including Michael Jackson, Elton John and Aretha Franklin – Marcus Miller opened yesterday, the festival Jazz à la Villette. First of a series of concerts until September 10. Between Laurent Bardainne and Maisha, it shall sign a delivery of two hours to perfect her latest album, Ugly Black . A launch beauty for a edition to programming generous in which we are to find Omara Portuondo, Lee Fields and the French Étienne Jaumet. For le Figaro, Marcus Miller back on the special relationship he has with our country.
LE FIGARO. – How did you become involved in jazz?
Marcus MILLER. – At the age of 14, I enrolled in a music school. There, one of my classmates told me very seriously: “You are gifted in funk, but you should learn how to play jazz.” He was my age but he was already speaking like an adult (laughs). I asked him why, and he replied: “Because all of the greatest musicians in the world play jazz.” Today, my music is just made from several music genres I like: hip-hop, gospel, sounds of africa… You know, as soon as I mix several styles, the people say that we play jazz.
Mix of influences, is also a way to broaden your audience?
of course! I think it should be an open and désintellectualiser the jazz. Young people don’t even understand necessarily the music. In the 1930s, jazz was being played yet in the clubs. It was made for dancing. There has always been two currents in jazz: a more intellectual and a more groovy . It is necessary to combine the two. Anyway it’s a musical style that claimant, who speaks about the black identity. The title of my last album, Ugly Black , refers to this. “Lay” means “sunset” in English. I wanted to recall that the foundations of jazz were raised by black people. Today, of course, it is a universal music. I have worked with Selah Sue, who is of Belgian origin, she sings divinely well. Play together, it is a pleasure and at the same time it is a message of universality and sharing.
What do you think of musicians like Etienne Jaumet, who add electronic instruments to the jazz?
This is a development quite natural, since it reflects our lives. The jazz has always been the mirror of society, it is necessary to involve computers as our life involves. However, there is a limit to respect: he must not lose the essence of humanity. If one makes music without love, without desire, without difficulty, this is that electronic tools have too much influence on our composition. Conversely, if the electronics allows you to transmit things essential, it is a good way to use it. When one is young, one wants above all to have a good time listening to music. As we get older, the music takes a more and more significant in our life. It should be obvious there is a meaning.
After more than 20 albums and a career long and rich, this is always exciting to play in the festival?
Yes, it is even more exciting. Young, I was in the euphoria of getting on stage. Over time, it is quiet and you feel all the beauty of the thing. So many people gather to listen to music, it is a testimony of immense love. Next week, I play in Hong Kong. I do not know how to speak chinese, but I already know that I’ll be able to communicate through music. One is able to understand, to have a good time all together.
That represents the festival Jazz à la Villette for you?
All Paris is special to me. It is a special city, especially for jazz musicians. You know, in the 1930s, black musicians were not respected in the United States. When they came to France, the French found their music incredible, it was a great recognition. The jazz has even become a symbol of resistance to the French, a claim to individuality. For the first time, black americans were treated like real artists. Villette represents the whole story. Miles Davis never wanted to leave when we had to play in France. And then when he died, there was an announcement on television in the United States. Here, it translates into a full week celebration of his music. It gives an idea of the anchor of the jazz in France…
You were already come to Jazz à la Villette…
Yes! I’ve played here there has fifteen years, and it has almost destroyed the Grande Halle de la Villette ( laughter ). The bass was so strong that the ceiling was falling-literally. After our visit, they had to redo all the sealing of the room! More seriously, I am very happy to be back… the audience is always very loyal. The sales of my album Afrodeezia were higher here than in the United States in 2015. I feel understood in this country.
Jazz à la Villette. Parc de la Villette (Xix). From August 29 to September 10, 2019.