"...it's another" stars all of the above, plus Randy Sutin on marimba, saxophonist E.J. Yellen, and special guest vocalist Wendy Simon.
"A Brief History of..." touts the same cast of usual suspects, plus saxophonists Ron Kerber, Umar A. Raheem, Chris Farr and Ben Schachter; pianists Eddie Green, Tom Lawton and Bob Cohen; bassists Micah Jones, Darryl Hall, Kevin McConnell and Gerald Veasley; Tony Miceli on vibes, Dean Witten on marimba, George Rabbai on trumpet, and vocalist Evelyn Simms.
"If it's not one thing...:"
"Sex Cymbals" "Sonoluminescence" "Simms' City" / "Suzy's Upright" / "everEddie" "Cool" / "Eudemonia" "Grateful Regret" / "Downtown Brown" / "nineleven" "American Fado"
"Clear Channel Suite" / "Junkanoo" / "High Point" "conunDrum" / "Green Zone Blues" / "aMingus amongus" / "Pleiades" / "Apparatus of Coercion" / "Katrina" / "Invasive Species" "Serendib lasio" "Triskaidekamania" "Broadcast Snooze" / "All the Fine Young Men"
Click here for more information (notes / lyrics, etc.)
"a brief history of...:"
"Oleo" / "High Point" / "Lift Every Voice" / "Boo Boo's Birthday" / "Rhino" / "Below the Beltway" / "By Myself" / "Fair Tonight" / "Water Dreams"
"A Brief History of..."
"Miller is longtime 'Adjunct Professor for Advanced Study of DrumSet' at Rowan University where Denis DiBlasio directs the Jazz Studies Program. Presenting an anthology of his work over the past quarter-century, this CD is designed to move us backwards in time, beginning with a 2005 performance of 'Oleo' and closing with an electronic-keyboards-driven fusion piece from 1981. For listeners interested in the shape of Millerís busy career, this record offers multiple perspectives...to effect the sometimes jarring discontinuities ordinarily associated with free-form college radio. But that may be just the point...'Miller Time' means experiencing Ďthe element of surpriseí in a set that is Ďmusically inspiring, uncompromising, observant and technically impressive.í Laudable goals, to be sure.
Personally, I found them met most often by the more recent performances. In fact, Millerís version of 'Oleo' is genuinely exciting. Ridlís piano sounds at once old school and yet edgy; His performance from beginning to end really caught me. Johnsonís guitar impresses by his resistance to overplaying: most of the time heís right there in the pocket, playing initially like only the 4th or 5th notes in his head are getting played. Once he lets go the music comes fast; his tone recalls Bill Frisell, but his fingers are far more fleet. As the last note of his solo dies down, Kerberís soprano sax rises up. Kerber makes few allusions to Sonnyís original, but his playing, like that of the ensemble generally, honors the tradition by keeping it modern. His tone is more Giuffre-esque than Trane-ish, but his ideas are freshly his own. It is, altogether and as Miller himself offers, a joyous performance.
The second track, 'High Point,' is aptly named. Unison horn lines rise above a driving rhythm section anchored by Tyrone Brownís ostinato bass line and Sutinís marimba, and of course topped off by Millerís energetic but inventive drumming. The composition credit goes to Miller himself, and the strength of it sparks my interest in hearing more of his work. 'Lift Every Voice' includes the 'Eddie Green & Tyrone Brown String Ensemble': forget whatever prejudices you might have against jazz with strings: these strings have bite, and individual voices. 'Rhino' is a DiBlasio composition; 'Below the Beltway' is a concept piece with sound bytes from various politicos woven into the texture of the music. 'Fair Tonight,' like 'Water Dreams,' turns on various keyboards and electronic effect.
This record will work for most listeners more like a sampler...Incidentally, two of these tracks have been released before, and parenthetical notes direct us to the original albums."
"The set starts in 2005 and ends in 1981, with Miller as a universal constant. You have only to hear the splashy lines that pianist Jim Ridl gave to 'Oleo' in a 2005 live concert at Rowan University to know that this is a special set. Guitarist Jef Lee Johnson makes a cool putty of the melody.
...The late Philly pianist Eddie Green gives an untraditional take of 'Lift Every Voice' (2002), while the late singer Evelyn Simms provides a brassy view of 'By Myself' (1988).
Many Philly notables appear on these nine tunes. Baritone saxophonist Denis DiBlasio lays down some muscular lines - with some ribald animal sounds coming from trumpeter George Rabbai - on DiBlasio's 'Rhino,' circa 1998.
'Below the Beltway,' of 1995 vintage, kicks off with Newt Gingrich in high form; it features many more sampled voices and some saucy singing by Dreambox label cofounder Suzanne Cloud.
E.J. Yellen lays down a screaming saxophone solo on 'Water Dreams' of 1981, with a vivacious (Jef Lee Johnson) on bass."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"Jim Miller is a consummate drummer, well-appreciated by fans and musicians alike. A versatile, creative individual...whose output, often featuring Philly musicians, has been prolific and outstanding...and this release provides a retrospective of his playing with varied groups from 1983 to 2005.
The recording's title is copped from both the beer commercial and cosmologist Stephen Hawkings' best seller, A Brief History of Time. Like the proverbial 'Time Machine,' each successive track takes us one step back from the most recent performances to the vintage ones with music that is enjoyable and exciting. Although the recording quality varies because in many cases the tracks are snatched from live concerts, the music is audible enough to get a sense of the cutting edge where, driven by Miller's powerful drumming, the various groups push the envelope and make definitive statements. And sociopolitical overtones are occasionally inserted, as in the dirge-like version of 'Lift Every Voice' and the social criticism monologues superimposed on 'Below the Beltway.'
Several of the tracks are from concerts at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. The first, 'Oleo,' dates from a 2005 live recording. We hear pianist Jim Ridl, saxophonist Ron Kerber, and guitarist Jef Lee Johnson in a fast-paced all-out version of this Sonny Rollins classic. Miller's own 'High Point' features solos by Umar Raheem on soprano sax, Denis DiBlasio on baritone, and E.J. Yellen on tenor where the drumming is particularly inspired throughout this track. The performance of Monk's classic 'Boo Boo's Birthday' was copped from a terrific CD by the fabulous group Monkadelphia which ran riot in the Philadelphia area a few years ago.
DiBlasio's 'Rhino' contrasts the deep sonority of the baritone sax with Dean Witten's marimba work. DiBlasio combines the rich Pepper Adams sound with his own unique facility. But one of the most moving tracks is heard when the late Evelyn Simms sings 'By Myself.' Though she never achieved fame, Simms was one of the truly great jazz singers. In this cut, she gradually brings out the implicit hysteria of the lonely woman in a way that most singers miss. She wrings the gut out of this song while swinging all the way. Finally, 'Fair Tonight' and 'Water Dreams' reach back to the early '80s, when electronics and synthesizers dominated jazz.
Topping off the varied musical treats on this CD, the cover art by Miller himself is a delight, and the liner notes contain sophisticated musical analyses. For long-time Philly jazz fans, this release will be a trip down memory lane, and for all others, the music will prove well worth a listen."
- All About Jazz.com
"Drummer Jim Miller assembles a CD that bristles with political and musical ideas...Miller starts with 'Clear Channel Suite,' which satirizes radio land by turning a fictitious tuner and finding an overwrought take of Antonio Carlos Jobim's 'How Insensitive,' followed by several imitations of a Pat Robertson-like preacher and a country singer who says 'If Jesus was alive today, he'd be a truck-driving man.' The CD attacks the Iraq war on the acidic 'Green Zone Blues,' while lionizing the soldiers who fight there with a passionate take of Aussie Eric Bogle's Scottish-sounding anthem, 'All the Fine Young Men.' Miller's Dreambox co-founder, singer Suzanne Cloud, is a prominent presence, writing lyrics to the originals and leveling shots at TV news with the sound-bite-strewn 'Broadcast Snooze.'
The players represent some of Dreambox's elite...The session is caustic at times, even angry, but it's never dull, and there's some hearty blowing, especially from DiBlasio."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"...(D)ecidedly unusual, in that it combines humor, straight ahead and/or slightly out Jazz, Fusion, and Zappa-like musical journeys with vocal numbers and a political stance...wide-ranging eclecticism...
For example, the opener 'Clear Channel Suite' is meant to be a sarcastic musical portrayal of the Clear Channel radio network and its political and musical limitations. It is pointed and funny...
'High Point' has a catchy ostinato motif in an up Latin bag, and Randy Sutinís marimba solo over a riff is really rather good. One of the more political tracks, 'Green Zone Blues,' is an indictment of the Iraq war and...sounds like a modern-day 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy'... Denis DiBlasioís baritone has a few very short interludes that are impressive...solos by Ridl, baritone and guitar that are noteworthy, and Jim Miller heats things up on the drums.
'Katrina' and 'Invasive Species' are out Fusion numbers that got my attention. They spotlight some dissonant out guitar a la Rypdal, McLaughlin, et al., by Jef Lee Johnson with interactive bass and drums. Jim Ridl has some worthy piano solos on 'Seradib Lasio...'
...it is refreshing to hear something political, and there are very nice moments to this disk..."
"Miller Time...combine(s) social commentary, straight-ahead jazz, overdubbing, unexpected intervallic choices, electronic effects, propulsive rhythms, ironic snippets of spoken broadcast segments, and extraordinary, unpredictable improvisation...
'nineleven' uses Jef Lee Johnsonís electric sitar to suggest a beginning deceptive calm before all hell breaks loose. For 'nineleven' recalls the individual horrors of that event as studio voices read New York Times transcripts of actual cries and pleas from 9/11...as Millerís back beat and documented sounds of horror and theatrical exhortations and DiBlasioís free improvisation commemorate the victims.
But beyond 'nineleven,' Miller Time contains numerous other highlights, particularly the track of a live performance of 'Suzyís Upright' at Rowan University, where DiBlasio leads jazz studies. A lightly swinging waltz, 'Suzyís Upright' merely and supremely entertains as DiBlasio takes the suggestions of the melody and gracefully unfolds them into a fully developed improvisational whole. Pianist Jim Ridl is as imaginative as ever, particularly in bringing to life the underlying possibilities of the relatively simple tune, 'Eudemonia,' which DiBlasio performs on soprano sax. Extending the tune beyond its repetitive phrases comprising the melody, Ridl works in chord substitutions and rolling accents before DiBlasio returns for a minimalistic solo creating sketches rather than embellishments.
Suzanne Cloudís presence is felt on tunes like 'Cool,' which bears little resemblance to the West Side Story version as she and Knox stretch the melody almost beyond recognition while Miller provides the percolating energy under the streaming lyrics. More conventional--but not really--is Cloudís lament about the American dream lost, 'American Fado.'...thatís the Suzanne Cloud weíve known in the past with her caustic social and political observation, take it or leave it, thereby joining the ranks of past jazz social commentators like Charles Mingus or Max Roach/Abbey Lincoln. Even in the absence of the electronic effects and displaced accents of 'Cool,' 'American Fado' consists of uncommon modulations and unexpected harmonic resolutions. And so, the element of surprise prevails throughout Miller Time, as we would hope.
But all of Miller Time is not politically driven or effects-laden. Tunes like 'Sonoluminescence,' combining crashing light and glowing sound, as it title implies, exists purely for the joy of the music as DiBlasio, Ridl and bassist Tyrone Brown take the potential of the song and run with it.
...sassy, musically inspiring, uncompromising, observant and technically impressive..."
"This set, employing some of the region's best players, ranges from the angry and political to the swinging and humorous. It rollicks with a helping of funk and features plenty of paradoxically off-center straight-ahead, blown by the percolating saxophonist Denis DiBlasio...
...Miller assembles a set that requires more of the brain than the usual recording. The tune 'nineleven' begins with the beguiling novelty of Jef Lee Johnson's electric sitar and builds to a shattering climax as various voices recite quotations from people who were trapped in the World Trade Center.
Singer Suzanne Cloud, a longtime coconspirator of Miller's, offers up a dreamlike, slow-motion version of 'Cool' from West Side Story...Miller kicks off the set with an ear-catching solo titled 'Sex Cymbals.'
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"...a lively contingent playing music with plenty of drive and spunk. Nearly all of the songs are the creation of Miller and have an up-tempo spirit with room for soloists to establish a ringing atmosphere with their hard-bopping approach. Miller is a muscular drummer. He makes assertive statements by taking short, explosive solos within the structure of the tunes. Additional muscle in the recording comes from reed player DiBlasio, who pours oil on the fire through his baritone, alto, soprano, or flute.
Vocalist Cloud...offers an earthy rendition of the Bernstein/Sondheim tune 'Cool' from West Side Story complete with motivating power-drumming from Miller. Nine speaking voices agonizingly rise above the electric sitar of Johnson on 'nineleven.' Elsewhere, Johnson's guitar and bass electrify the air...The recording becomes a vehicle for kicking back and letting loose as the driving rhythmic patterns commandeer the scene. Miller is into good times on this set..."
"Miller has assembled a fine band, including keyboardist Jim Ridl, whose name has been on the rise in recent years...Ridl's contribution to the record is substantial; his solo over the walking bass line of 'Eudemonia' demonstrates a unique voice that deserves broader recognition. Denis DiBlasio shines on multiple saxophones, but especially on baritone, which is all-too-seldom heard as a lead voice; his work on the lightly swinging 'Grateful Regret' shows the baritone can be a remarkably tender instrument.
Miller's compositions are, for the most part, interesting and pleasant...the one exception is the track 'nineleven,' which...is an unbelievably difficult track to listen to, and...is extremely successful in capturing the sense of panic and desperation, both musically and with the voice-overs...
The track segues into the concluding piece, 'American Fado'...kudos to Miller for creating a pair of pieces that recreate the emotions of an historic disaster...Miller clearly demonstrates the incredible power of music, but there is a certain feeling of exploitation that leaves one feeling more than a little angry.
...these pieces, in their attempt to convey a deep set of emotions, are at the same time successful as pieces of art..."
- AllAbout Jazz.com