Oct 5 2013
Something Different: RJ Miller – “Ronald’s Rhythm”
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.
Available at: eMusic MP3 | Amazon MP3 | At the Loyal Label site
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.
Also, another nifty example of the fusion of jazz and ambient minimalism would be Goran Kajfes‘ X/Y, which you can read about HERE and HERE.
October 5, 2013 @ 8:44 pm
I absolutely love the sound sample for the RJ Miller release. I will definitely add that to my wish list. Also checked out the Goran Kajfes release and will pick that up as well. The jazz/electronica/ambient style is one I wish was explored more often. The few releases in that genre I have stumbled on are either very good or a total waste, with very little in the middle ground. These two releases sit comfortably at the top of the very good list. Thanks for the tip Dave!
October 6, 2013 @ 8:51 am
Appreciate you stopping by the site, and glad you found some cool music to scoop up.
I agree that a large majority of the albums that attempt to fuse jazz and electronic ambient music typically fall to one extreme (excellent) or the other (ugh). Not sure if that’s because of the difficulty involved in forging that bond or the relative newness of the approach. Probably some of both. It’s a safe assumption, though, that as more musicians attempt to do it, it will likely result in more of a bell curve dispersal of album quality… most albums are average, with some outliers at both ends of the spectrum.
I’ve got a couple more coming up in the upcoming weeks… albums that aren’t really jazz per se, but also aren’t really ambient or electronica or anything else… a form of post-jazz, I suppose. But genre-classifications aside, it’s some compelling music.
P.S. I’ll update the RJ Miller review with retail links when the album is officially for sale, and put a note in the Comments section of the review when they go up. I think if you “follow” the comments section, then you’ll get an email notification when I post the retail update (at least, I think that’s how my site works). That way you don’t risk forgetting about it as you get distracted with other new music.
November 8, 2013 @ 6:11 am
I was able to pick up the RJ Miller release this week. Wow, perfect chill music. Any suggestions for other things in this tiny niche would be appreciated. Thanks again for the tip.
November 9, 2013 @ 8:13 am
Hey there, Chip. Happy to help spread the word on the Miller release. I’m still pretty smitten with it, myself.
If you’re looking for chill early-morning music that toes the line between jazz and electronics… off the top of my head, I’d suggest looking into the music of Colorlist. It’s a duo of jazz musicians who mix jazz with heavy doses of ambient post-rock. They have a new album out, Sky Song, which is pretty fantastic, but their previous release The Fastest Way To Become The Ocean is pretty amazing, too. I mention the Goran Kajfes “X/Y” release at the bottom of the Miller review… that’s good stuff. Andreas Ulvo is doing some interesting things like this from a Nordic Jazz perspective, though he delves more into the folk side of things… which sounds great, but those occasional blends of jazz and ambient electronica(ish) that he breaks into leave me wanting more of that from him.
I’ll look through my library for some other good examples. I’ve recently turned over the collection in my early-morning playlist, so there’s probably some other recent examples I’m forgetting. The first place I’m gonna look is on the Hubro and Hoob labels. I’ll get back to you on that.
November 9, 2013 @ 8:27 am
Oh, hey, one I just noticed right away…
Released on the Rune Grammofon label a few years ago. Definitely fits in with our RJ Miller discussion. I got a little bored with this album, thought it lacked heart is some sections, but there are still a few tracks like “All Is Wood” and “Schweizerhalle” which still float my boat.
Here’s a link to the song “All Is Wood” on their Soundcloud page…