How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The latest of the long line of discs from English guitarist Phil Miller features the same musicians with whom he has now been in cahoots for over 10 years: Elton Dean on saxophones, Pete Lemer keyboards, Jim Dvorak trumpet, Pip Pyle on drums, Fred 'Thelonius/Sonny' Baker bass, and guesting on 2 tracks Doug Boyle on guitar. This time, 4 years after the release of Parallel also on Crescent Discs, they appear under both his name and In Cahoots performing a similar collection of Miller's varied, complex instrumental pieces in both 4- and 6-piece band format.
However this album is unique in having an explicit yet underlying theme, specified in the title Out of the Blue. To readers who know Miller from his work in the 70's and 80's with British rock/fusion icons normally associated with 'the Canterbury sound' Robert Wyatt and Dave Stewart, this will come as a further surprise. But to those who know his work with his brother Steve in the blues based Delivery they will recognise it as some sort of return to his roots, although heavily shaded by the crafted sounds and styles of the last 20 years. The album is in fact dedicated to Steve Miller, who died in December 1998 before he was able to make the contributions Phil had intended. The first and last numbers "Early Days" and "Slime Divas" in particular evoke two extremes of passion typical to the genre: wrenching, youthful anger and an extended final convoluted torpor of melancholy.
Between these two poles Miller plies his familiar trade, penning a selection of pieces which offer his vastly talented colleagues ample room for virtuosity - viz Lemer's extended velvety piano introduction to "Phrygian Blues" or Elton Dean's gutsy sax later, and on "Slime Divas". The dextrous Mr Baker extends the bass fretboard at both ends on "No More Mr Nice Guy", offering lively compliments to Miller's own tastefully restrained guitar work. Occasionally Miller lets the volume knob off its catch and on "Open Sea" we hear glimpses of the lean minimalist lead familiar from his days with Hatfield and the North or National Health, while the introduction to "Delta Blues" with Doug Boyle from recently reformed Canterbury pioneers Caravan on second guitar, or the Pip Pyle's mini drum solo later in the track offers a sample of the style those jaunty days. In short an inspired and confident stride into the new millenium from these icons of late twentieth century British jazz-fusion.
Track Listing: 1)Early Days, 2)No More Mr Nice Guy, 3)Delta Borderine, 4)Phrygian Intro/Phrygian Blues, 5)Open Sea, 6)Slime Divas
Personnel: Phil Miller - guitar, synth-guitar, producer,Pip Pyle - drums, Elton Dean - alto saxophone, saxello, Pete Lemer - keyboards, Jim Dvorak - trumpet, Fred 'Thelonius' Baker - fretless bass guitar, + guest Doug Boyle - guitar