Allison Miller pretty much owned 2016 in new jazz


Lean – Lean

On Lean, the trio of Allison Miller, saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh and bassist Simon Jermyn move through influences like a chameleon across an ever-changing landscape.  The alluring drone of “Spotswood Drive” leads into the jaunty groove of “Electric Sun,” which, in turn, becomes the late night ballad “Lean.”  The furtive motions of “Olney” and “Bunker” are alike in their presence but on opposite ends as far as delivery, as are “Otis” and “Comptine,” but in terms of intensity.  And then there’s final track “Fast Fish,” a resting place of a straight-ahead post-bop.  And in each instance, with each different form of expression and influence, it sounds like trio is right at home in its environment, as if that were their sound all the time and the previous and subsequent album tracks hadn’t or won’t reflect any changes of any kind… just blending in, one tune at a time.

A supremely enjoyable recording.

Your album personnel:  Allison Miller (drums, “bike” and pedals), Jerome Sabbagh (tenor & soprano saxophones) and Simon Jermyn (electric bass and pedals).

The album is Self-Produced.

Listen to more of the album at the artist’s Bandcamp page.

Available at:  Bandcamp


Honey Ear Trio – Swivel

Every bit of this album leads to the impression that they’re having the most ever fun on Swivel.  Miller’s Honey Ear Trio of herself, saxophonist Jeff Lederer and bassist Rene Hart (plus cornetist Kirk Knuffke sitting in for a handful of tracks) keeps stepping up with the wildest expressions, and it’s the kind of thing that elicits both wonderment and smiles.  Whether it’s a seriously different take on Monk’s “Evidence” or an original like “Changeling,” the trio just blasts away before suddenly hitting the brakes for some rhythmic playfulness.  Some tracks open up seams of electronic effects, and how they pair with boisterous organic instruments makes for some intriguing compare and contrast.  Even on a track like “Lullaby,” when it seems like the trio is throwing a curveball with a peaceful, ambient tone, they still punctuate the silence with pointed saxophone bursts and rhythmic eddies… a sort of sunlight-on-the-water’s-surface effect, except that the light can burn and the water could pull you under if not careful.  And then there’s the rubber ducky squeak on “Squeaky Toy,” which is immediately eclipsed by a motorcycle roar, with the trio running on a full tank of gasoline for the entirety of the track.  But even at the other end of the spectrum, “Speak Eddie” has them taking a straight-ahead route and tempering their enthusiasm without lessening the excitement.

There’s nothing about this album that isn’t to like.

Your album personnel:  Allison Miller (drums, percussion), Jeff Lederer (saxophones), Rene Hart (acoustic bass, electronics) and guest:  Kirk Knuffke (cornet).

Released on Little (i) Music.

Listen to more of the album at the artist’s Bandcamp page.

Available at:  Bandcamp | Amazon


Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom – Otis Was A Polar Bear

What a seriously rich sound Miller and company conjure up on Otis Was a Polar Bear.  Her Boom Tic Boom sextet could masquerade as an ensemble twice that size, and probably still eclipse the larger group with its presence.  Some of this has to do with the pairings that create ideal situations where the sound of consequence is greater than the sum of the individual parts.  It’s why the contra-alto clarinet of Ben Goldberg, the violin of Jenny Scheinman and the piano of Myra Melford are able to jack up the intensity on “Shimmer” while maintaining the harmonic strength at something to fall softly into.  And it’s why Goldberg and cornetist Kirk Knuffke can surf the torrents of Melford’s piano and still muster up a wry blues on “Hoarding the Pod.”  But the success of this album also has a lot to do with the compositions and where the musicians take them.  How else to explain the subtle shift from cheery tunefulness to a thick introspection on “The Listener” or how the raindrops of melody on “Lullaby for Cookie” resonate as massively as any thunderstorm.  And then there’s the shadowboxing that goes on between bassist Todd Sickafoose and Miller, both in the foreground and behind the scene, and insinuating their will upon the tune in both instances.

This is one of the very best things to come out in all of 2016.

Your album personnel:  Allison Miller (drums, percussion), Ben Goldberg (clarinet, contra-alto clarinet), Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Jenny Scheinman (violin), and Todd Sickafoose (upright bass) and Myra Melford (piano).

Released on the Royal Potato Family label.

Available at:  Amazon | eMusic