Oct 5 2013
Ronald’s Rhythm, the debut recording of drummer RJ Miller, is one of an emerging approach to fusing jazz with minimalist ambient electronica. Not quite jazz, not quite pop, not quite minimalist, Miller’s set of dense meditative lullabies don’t obliterate the walls between genres so much as dematerialize them into obsolescence.
The result is an album of exquisite tranquility that brings a tiny heat, like an ember that burns brightly with no end.
Your album personnel: RJ Miller (drums, keyboards, analog synthesizers) and guests: Pete Rende (analog synthesizers, organ), Adam Chilenski (bass), Liz Kozak (piano, analog synthesizer), and Leo Genovese (accordion).
And while this album is flush with modernity, it also echoes music of the past. It would be impossible to listen to this album and not see how Miller is connecting the dots between jazz and the ambient experimentalism of Brian Eno. “3:05 am” swims with that odd melancholia associated with Eno’s most ambient work… that mix of inspired beauty and sad reflection, as if watching the snow fall on a full moon’s eve… the glittering snow flakes, the warm lights pouring from a window and out over fallen snow… a time for peacefulness and self-reflection.
But Eno isn’t the only emergent influence to reveal itself here. The early 1970s saw Alice Coltrane transform her raw spiritual jazz sound into something quite new… drowned in electronic washes, her spiritual treatises gained an extra charge of liveliness and expressiveness. The title-track “Ronald’s Rhythm” hits similar territory… percussion that swings, but a spirituality that drifts and gives the song an ethereal presence. Uptempo, yet with an inimitable hypnotic effect.
And though many of the tracks proceed with a measured equanimity, like album opener “Sunny Cover,” there are those like “Downstairs” which present an insistent rhythm that becomes increasingly textured in combination with becoming increasingly volatile.
Miller composed the album in the remote location of Blue Hill, Maine, choosing to record a project with drums and keyboards as the center of gravity. He brings in a handful of guests who add their own keyboard and synthesizer contributions to the songs with some bass, piano, and accordion in choice spots. The danger in a rotating cast of personnel is incongruity between album songs, shattering coherency. Admirably, the different musicians and their varied contributions all fall neatly into place, becoming a seamless part of the composite whole.
Just a beautiful album… one that envelops the listener slowly, with the unhurried grace of a rising sun slowly blanketing the land with light and warmth.
Released on the Loyal Label.
Download a free album track, courtesy of the artist and label, by hitting the “Download” button at the bottom of the audio player embedded above.
Music from the Blue Hills, Maine scene and NYC.
The album will be available on November 5th, 2013.
What Else You Should Know:
RJ Miller performs on some of saxophonist Jeremy Udden‘s recordings. These are albums I highly recommend. Check out my site for reviews. Here’s a place to start.
Also, many of the albums released on Eivind Opsvik’s Loyal Label could fall under my Something Different category. Nothing about the music they put out is ordinary, and pretty much all of it is unclassifiable. Start searching my site HERE.