Clear Channel Suite: This pastiche of pop genre parodies was originally intended to be a musical rant against media consolidation and conglomeration, which has resulted in very restrictive radio formats with little or no diversity. On 18 January 2002, a train derailment in Minot, South Dakota released a cloud of toxic gas, and the local populace could find out nothing about it since Clear Channel owned all the commercial four FM and three AM stations in the area and operated them on auto-pilot (they did not own the Christian stations at the time). One man died and at least 100 of Minot's citizens were sickened and severely injured. The focus of this piece became an aural representation (with artistic license) of what it might have been like that day searching up and down the radio dial, desperately trying to find emergency information. The "Adult Contemporary," "smooth jazz" version of How Insensitive was the cheesiest treatment we could come up with...but since recording it, I've heard a "Euro-disco" version that was definitely worse. A certain sub-group of some audiences encountered in the distant past used to request "truck songs," so Truck Drivin' Man is our C&W tune. For "Top 40," I tried to come up with the most dumbed-down, mindless thing ever...one chord and a lyric entirely consisting of only one word, "Party." However, anyone that's heard that surf band's "Woo Hoo" behind the Vonage phone ads knows I obviously don't have the vapidity market cornered. During a clinic/workshop at an exurban school, our group was doing the shtick demonstrating that any tune could be played in any style. When we morphed into a hip-hop groove, two otherwise-disinterested students jumped on stage to join us, insisting they could "rap." All they could muster was "Yo, what's up?" ad nauseam...thus Bad Rap. Find That Smell is a takeoff on death-metal skinhead Nazi "hate-core" bands, the ugliest crap I've ever heard. And I do a decent Pat Robertson...oops, make that "Rob Paterson." Then finally, a moment of redemption and...
Junkanoo: Soon after 9/11, we played a gig in the Bahamas and got away from the usual thin tourist stuff by driving to the far opposite end of the island. There we encountered the otherwise-empty Star Restaurant & Bar, its genial host, Mr. Robert Grant...and in the corner, a life-sized statue of what looked for all the world to be...a Philly Mummer in full regalia! Mr. Grant explained that Junkanoo is a 200-year-old black traditional city street parade with music, occuring every Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year's Day. Junkanoo groups even compete for best costumes; the major difference being they "rush" from dusk until dawn to mostly cowbell ("Kalik")-oriented sounds.
High Point: Dedicated to Mary Alexander, John Coltrane's Cousin Mary. On a mini-tour of the South, we wanted to see High Point, North Carolina, where they were raised together. There's nothing signifying the exact house, but there is a historical marker nearby on an industrial highway running along railroad tracks that seem to divide the city; and for a few blocks, that industrial highway has been renamed "Coltrane Avenue" (picture below).
conunDrum: Dedicated to Jim Ridl, one of the finest pianists I've ever known ("conunDrum" = "riddle" = "Ridl"). Among his spousal unit's many gifts, Kathy plays accordion...hence that timbre in the mix. By the way, the last break with the bass drum is supposed to represent a bouncing basketball, since our nickname for Jim is "Franchise."Green Zone Blues: The tale of two female GIs - the "Desert Foxes" - chauffeuring a Rumsfeld crony from the Baghdad airport to the "secure area." Hopelessly lost, they end up fragging Rumsfeld's imperious envoy. Much appreciation to special guest Wendy Simon, who came in to add two vocal tracks to Suzanne Cloud's original, after it became apparent that four-part harmonies would make this sound like a demented version of the Andrews Sisters' patriotic WWII numbers...
"Keep 'em comin,' all or nothin,' all for nothin,' Baghdad
Goin' nowhere, no one is out here, all alone in Baghdad.
Sister Benedetta kinda gives you a smile, to get there all it takes is dodging bullets eight miles
Plunging into town along the Highway of Death, everything is such a mess
Ridin' through the carnage fully armored and gassed, security consultants always pinchin' my ass
Down and out, we went and bought America's bull, a deadfall, that's all.
Rummy's dummy's askin' me to pick up the pace, complaining that he doesn't like the sand in his face
Fear and resignation, bodies twitchin' away, dig his pretzel logic...
Everybody says we're helping people be free, I need to find Checkpoint Three
Where in hell's the Green Zone?
Henny Penny, skies are fallin,' goodness gracious, Baghdad
Things we don't know that we don't know, we don't know in Baghdad.
Most days, I gotta tell you I ain't havin' no fun, just sittin' in the Humvee keeping watch in the sun
Iraqi children scatter up whenever we wave, guess they just don't wanna be saved
We gotta tell you Rummy, war is not what you think, we never shoulda come here, you created a stink
All the news is bad news, baby, we lost our way, where are we? The Dead Sea?
Drivin' through the city now for most of the night, hopin' for the Green Zone glow to come into sight
Every home is dark, all eyes are watchin' so close, it seems to me they're waiting...
Everybody says we're helping people be free, why don't they can the I.E.D.s?
Where in hell's the Green Zone?
Should I turn right, make a left / right, where in hell's the Green Zone?
See a street sign, oops, a land mine! Where in hell's the Green Zone...(bring 'em on)!"*
aMingus amongus: This entire collection of tunes is intended as a companion to my earlier CD and this cut - along with track #8 (Apparatus of Coercion) - was recorded at the same session as the two concluding pieces from "If it's not one thing...". Since Mingus loved Duke Ellington's sound so madly, Denis DiBlasio put his Johnny Hodges bend on this...and it was exactly what was needed. Thanks, Denny (and Jef and Tyrone, of course)!Pleiades: As an absolute self-confessed "Close Encounters" nut, it was incredible to actually visit Devils Tower. I didn't know that a legend shared by several Native American tribes involves seven young Indian girls who, chased by a giant bear, jumped upon a rock and prayed to the Almighty Spirit for rescue. The rock ("Mato Tipila") grew, elevating the seven girls high into the sky. The deep gouges on the Tower's walls are from the frustrated bear clawing at the sides as the girls soared up into the heavens, becoming the "seven sisters" of the Pleiades. The entire time I was there, birds kept singing two recurrent melodies, which became the figures for this piece...in 7/4, of course. This was recorded - without rehearsal - at the release concert for my first CD, "If it's not one thing..."
Apparatus of Coercion: Although this title may sound like a Noam Chomsky phrase, it's actually from Karl Marx, referring to implicit / explicit control of the population through propaganda and more draconian measures, from thought control to gulags. It's a "pseudo-reggae" slash-chord reharmonization of the melancholic Row Your Boat in 9 that gets into a free-floating mood behind seriously atypical solos from Denis and Jef.
Our apparatus of coercion, it's now apparatus of coercion
Take it down, tell the jailer, it's happenin' with cool efficacious aspersions on the nice
Don'tcha know us? It's money for the willing and bogus, much sweet satisfaction
Apparatus of coercion, oh the sunny corruption of power
Makin' new lies to fool you, don't you know we're usin' old lies to crush you, just listen
It's the old apparatus of coercion, the old apparatus of coercion.
Schlock and awe...
...How many more times?"*
Katrina: Although originally written (in meter) concerning something else, after witnessing the mighty Bush administration's FEMA response to the approaching storm - which was basically "Get out of there! Run for your lives!" - we knew this would have to be all about that. As soon as Jef and I started playing, we also knew there would be no bar lines...only suspended, implied time, waves of sound and a sense of impending doom.Invasive Species: This is the first section of nineleven from my previous CD, recorded at the same release concert as track #7. Serendib lasio: Again in 7/4, this concerns the seventh, last and uniquely diplomatic voyage of Sinbad, assigned to carry a gift to the king of Serendib. But actually it's dedicated to Denis DiBlasio, who encouraged me to start composing and turned me on to a helpful book, "Modal Jazz Composition & Harmony" by Ron Miller (full disclosure - no relation). Denny's advice? "Find some chord changes you like and write a melody that fits over them." What's the connection between Sinbad and Denny? Beats me, but sincere thanks to Jef, Mark, Tyrone, Suzanne and E.J. for realizing what I heard in my head.Triskaidekamania: The opposite of "fear of the number 13," this is actually the intro to the next tune (it's all one composition), but we inserted a separate start I.D. after Suzanne - upon hearing what I thought was the finished product, and inspired by my strumming the snares on the bottom of the drum, which she thought sounded like that "teletype" newscast background sound - wanted to write lyrics (for a song in 13!?!?). Oh well, it's weird enough without an almost minute-long drum solo in the beginning anyway...Broadcast Snooze: So, after hearing Suzanne's lyrics - all inside TV newsroom jargon - Mark added some relevant sound effects and a killer solo.
"SLAP shot (=stupid, live and pointless), talking bean (=vacuous taking head) Kicker (=warm & fuzzy newscast-ending story), keep it cheese (=schmaltzy story or anchor chat producers hate but viewers love) Lip flap (=can't hear what the speaker is saying), back to you Hair cut (=the on-camera talent), mike stand (=photographer's term for reporters), too Bird block (=satellite-feed newscast segment), Brady Bunch (=team coverage video effect; the screen is split into boxes) Bat phone (=direct line from producers to anchors), out to lunch Dog lick (=live shot irrelevant to story), neat trick Straight live (=reporter stands there and explains what's happening, no tape), oh my! Three A's (='ask any asshole'), slow fade, train wreck (=on-air newscast crash) Newsroom, boom boom, all jive. Man bag (=male reporter's makeup case), grip and grin (=candidate photo-op) Hot roll (=rolling tape from the live truck during the newscast), newsgasm (=big disaster story) Big board (=giant TV screen in back of reporter), anchorettes (=attractive but inexperienced female anchors) The wall (=chroma-key screen used by the meteorologist), Meet the Press Drive-by (=a wide shot of an event), standup tease (=upcoming story promo) BOPSA (=generic shot of a 'bunch of people standing around'), diggin' sleaze Go get what's next, forget context Warm props (=background newsroom employees seen in wide shots of the studio floor during newscasts), don't stop, train wreck Newsroom, boom boom, all jive Franchise (=a paid-for 'consumer-advocacy' type section of a newscast), hose and go (=shoot as much video as possible) Smotherage (=teams of reporters on the same story), never slow Balance? Let's get real! Fuzz was (=any sensational story with cops and dead bodies), double deal Stakeout (=packs of photographers and reporters waiting for something or someone), rip and swim? (=separating newscast script computer printouts for the anchor, director and producer),
ratings, Fox butts in. Wire fire (=wiring a mic' on a remote interview guest so the studio anchor can fire questions), old liars, flop sweat Newsroom, boom boom, all jive. Push the suck button (=a directorial or other major on-air technical mistake) and cue the Jesus lights" (=camera filters that create a 'star effect' on the studio lighting).*
All the Fine Young Men: The greatest anti-war tune ever written, in my opinion...special thanks to Suzanne for discovering it and updating the lyrics. 'Nuff said.
P.O. Box 8132, Philadelphia, PA 19101-8132
Phone/Fax: (610) 328-1619
PROFILE: Education - Born in the Midwest; Snare drum lessons with Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra percussionist; studied informally with J.C. Heard, John Von Ohlen, Ed Shaughnessy, and Alan Dawson. Began playing professionally in 1970 through a stylistic variety of original-material bands; moved to the East Coast in 1977. Experience - Co-founder of REVERIE, with performances at festivals, clubs, and colleges from New England to Florida, and leader of his own "MILLER TIME." As a sideman, concert appearances and/or recordings with:
Ira Sullivan | Johnny Coles | Larry Coryell | John Blake | Al Grey | Don Alias | Cecil Bridgewater | Steve Giordano | Victor Bailey | Anita O'Day | Frank Tiberi | Jef Lee Johnson | Steve Rudolph | Alex Foster | Bootsie Barnes | Sid Simmons | Onaje Alan Gumbs | "Doc" Gibbs | Reggie Workman | Uri Caine | Rebecca Parris | Mark Murphy | Ben Schachter | Tony Williams | Jeff Jarvis | Evelyn Simms | Ron Thomas | Larry McKenna | Lynn Seaton | Bob Kindred | Gordon Brisker | Richie Cole | Charles Fambrough | Randy Brecker | Vanessa Rubin | Houston Person | Bob Mintzer | Buddy DeFranco | Clark Terry | James Moody | Eddie Gomez | Dave Liebman | Slide Hampton | Ray Mantilla | Joe Ford | Jean Carn | Bobby Zankel | Clifford Adams | John Simon | Dave Stryker | Dave Leonhardt | Randy Johnston | Ted Rosenthal | Michael Pedecin, Jr. | Steve Marcus | Jim Ridl | Darryl Hall
Workshops and clinics, international (B.V. Islands, W. Indies, Mexico, Europe), much session work (studio/radio/TV).
AFFILIATIONS & ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
Administrator of ElectroJazz Music (BMI, 1980); w/ SUZANNE CLOUD founded ENCOUNTER RECORDS in 1986 and DREAMBOX MEDIA in 1995, resulting in Philadelphia Magazine's choice award for 1999 Best of Philly® Jazz Record Label; Produced Evelyn Simms' "On My Own," awarded BEST JAZZ RECORDING OF 1989 by the Philadelphia Music Foundation; two trips to Europe w/ pianist BRIAN TRAINOR; Jazz History (AM CIV 261) lecturer at University of Pennsylvania; Adjunct for Advanced Study of DrumSet on Jazz Faculty at Rowan University, Glassboro, N.J. & Active Member American Federation of Teachers, Local 2373 since 1997; board member of JazzBridge.org. In early 2007, Dreambox Media celebrated its twentieth anniversary, coinciding with its one hundredth release. MONKadelphia's CD "Crepuscule" was named one of the 2010 Top Ten Best in Jazz by the Philadelphia Inquirer; Honored with receiving the JAZZ HERO AWARD for the greater Philadelphia metro region by the Jazz Journalists Association in April 2013.
SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY (CD Releases Only):
TUNNEL VISION - REVERIE (Encounter Records EAR-1013)
LOOK AHEAD - GERALD VEASLEY (Heads Up OXCD/MC3016)
CATCH ME - DENIS DiBLASIO (Liscio Artist Series-11193)
KUSANGALA (w/ TYRONE BROWN) - (Nirvana K-1001)
SUDDEN LIFE - DON GLANDEN w/ LARRY McKENNA (Encounter EAR-1019)
SIGNS - GERALD VEASLEY (Heads Up HUCD 3027)
7 GIANT STEPS TO HEAVEN - DENIS DiBLASIO (Liscio LAS-38932)
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS - SUZANNE CLOUD (EAR-1022)
JAZZ SAXOPHONE CLASSICS - BOB FANELLI (2nd St. SSP1204)
SHADES OF GREEN - EDDIE GREEN (Dreambox Media DMJ-1052)
REFLECTIONS OF CHILDHOOD - DENIS DiBLASIO (Dreambox Media EAR-1023)
LEMON DROP - GEORGE RABBAI & Co. (DBK Jazz 70001)
MONK & ME - BRIAN TRAINOR trio & friends (TriArt Music TRT-2018)
THIS XMAS (I'D RATHER HAVE LOVE) - TEDDY PENDERGRASS (Surefire 13048)
RHINO - DENIS DiBLASIO (Dreambox Media EAR-1032)
5 MINUTES TO MADNESS & JOY - JIM RIDL Trio (Synergy Music 80008-2)
PERPETUAL BAGGAGE CLAIM - DENIS DiBLASIO (Dreambox Media EAR-1038)
MONKADELPHIA - (Dreambox Media EAR-1045)
LOOKING BACK - SUZANNE CLOUD (Dreambox Media DMJ-1030)
MOOD SWINGS - BOB FANELLI (Consensus Music 01062)
The JIM RIDL TRIO LIVE - (Dreambox Media DMJ-1055)
DICHOTOMY - BRIAN BETZ (Dreambox Media DMJ-1088)
IF IT'S NOT ONE THING... - Jim MILLER TIME (Dreambox Media DMJ-1029)
...IT'S ANOTHER - Jim MILLER TIME (Dreambox Media DMJ-1063)
RETROSPECTIVE / DEBUT - TOM LAWTON (Dreambox Media DMJ-1070)
TRANQUILLO - The BRIAN TRAINOR QUARTET (Harkit Records, EU 8115)
YOUR CHEATIN' HEART - JIM RIDL (Dreambox Media DMJ-1080)
BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN - TYRONE BROWN SEXTET (DMJ-1087)
FREE BIRD - The BIRDHOUSE PROJECT (Dreambox Media DMJ-1100)
DENIS DiBLASIO / BRIAN BETZ PROJECT - LIVE at Chris' Jazz Cafe' (Dreambox Media DMJ-1110/2)
MOON OF THE FALLING LEAVES - TYRONE BROWN STRING ENSEMBLE (Dreambox Media DMJ-1115)
JAZZ GREETINGS - MARK KRAMER (Dreambox Media DMJ-1118)
CREPUSCULE - MONKadelphia (Dreambox Media DMJ-1123)
CARAVAN (The Chordless Project) - DENIS DiBLASIO / JIM McFALLS (Dreambox Media DMJ-1126)
AutoBIOgraphy: JIM MILLER
I've been involved in the professional music business since 1970, but incredibly, still enjoy playing the drums anyway. I consider it very fortunate that my Indianapolis grade school had a full band program and indoor toilets as well. At age 12 the "music nun" yanked me from piano lessons to play drums in the orchestra because no one else had exhibited any natural proclivity toward becoming the scapegoat in the school's traditional losses at district band contests. Falling in love with the drums immediately, I demonstrated my interest and gratitude by ripping off drumsticks from the school, using them at home to break the heads on a pair of Emenee bongos.
In order to protect the windowsills and tabletops, a drumset was soon provided and in no time, I was auditioning for my first band ("Do you know the beat to 'Wipe Out'?" "Yeah." "OK, you're in."). Starting with youth centers and community pools, moving up to after-game dances and drunken frat-house affairs, I paid my dues to reach the top in Naptown: VFW halls, Moose Lodges, mall openings, sets between films at drive-ins, and occasional Union jobs at the Women's Prison. I once found myself playing along with the jukebox at a country joint too cheap to hire a whole group; realizing something was missing, I decided to devote myself to bands inexplicably working on unique, original material no one wanted to hear.
By this point I was gaining notoriety as a drummer who would show up for the gig, but I needed more...so, after finally perceiving that further artistic growth could not occur in an area with such a dearth of seedy dives, I moved to Philadelphia.
Since relocating to the East Coast and slowly crystallizing the concepts for an unpublished book, I've greatly decreased my chances for fame and financial success by evolving into a Jazz Snob. In recent years my drums have taken me to many exotic foreign lands including Cancun (Mexico), Lisbon (Portugal), and Des Moines, Iowa.
But seriously, I took snare drum lessons with Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra percussionist Jack Wagley, and studied informally at drum clinics with John Von Ohlen, J.C. Heard, Ed Shaughnessy, and Alan Dawson. I was leader/co-founder/chief mediator/drummer for the "electro-jazz" group REVERIE, which persevered in the face of adversity, apathy, and overwhelming indifference to release four collections of original material in the dozen or so years of its existence; as a sideman, I've backed Larry Coryell, Johnny Coles, John Blake, George Howard, Al Grey, Anita O'Day, Rebecca Parris, Mark Murphy, Richie Cole, Randy Brecker, Vanessa Rubin, Bob Mintzer, Houston Person, Buddy DeFranco, Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Joe Ford, Charles Fambrough, Ray Mantilla, Jean Carn, Ira Sullivan, Cecil Bridgewater, Frank Tiberi, Uri Caine, Jeff Jarvis, Ted Rosenthal, Dave Stryker, Dave Leonhardt, James Moody, Eddie Gomez, Dave Liebman and many others.
I started my own record label in 1986 (Philadelphia Magazine's 1999 Best of Philly® Jazz Record Label), and hold an Artist Endorsement agreement with DREAM cymbals. In 1989, I produced Evelyn Simms' "On My Own," which was awarded Best Jazz Recording by the Philadelphia Music Foundation. I'm currently working and recording with vocalist/lyricist Suzanne Cloud, with Tyrone Brown (former bassist for Max Roach), the Jim Ridl Trio, MONKadelphia, the Tom Lawton Quintet and the Denis DiBlasio Quartet / Quintet. I was named Philadelphia-region "Jazz Hero" by the Jazz Journalists' Association in 2013, and proudly serve on the board of Jazz Bridge, a non-profit doing much to assist Jazz & blues musicians in times of crisis.