Tim Miller: Sides (2002)
Boston's (by way of Michigan, North Texas State and Paris) 29-year old Tim Miller shows the world some very impressive bop-fusion guitar chops on this auspicious 40-minute indie release. He also shows that he's the latest honcho who's deeply felt the influence of Allan Holdsworth. That last statement is now akin to saying, "here's a new saxophonist that's felt the influence of Coltrane." Speaking of which, one of the world's greatest post-'Trane saxophonists, underheralded Boston institution and fellow Berklee faculty member George Garzone, is along for, by turns, some rollicking and cerebral fireworks. The rhythm team of James Driscoll on acoustic bass and Rob Avsharian on drums distinguish themselves here by doing their jobs, supporting and pushing the band exceedingly well. They also individually or collectively contribute to five of the set's nine tunes, the remainder of which are Miller originals.
Three of those, "Sides," "Sharp" and "Spark," are shredfests that should, provided they get deservedly heard, put Miller on the map as a new young gun on the bop-fusion tip. But it's in the pop-influenced crossover song craft of his "Looking to You" and the Avsharian-penned tunes "The Night" and "Passageways" where this unit stands to pick up the most listeners.
Let's get back to those shredfests, shall we? Mr. Miller can certainly rip, and I'd suggest the fourth tune, "Sharp," as a primer to Tim's thing in an up-tempo vein. Drums and reticulating, single-note, bop-laced, gently distorted, legato guitar set up the head, punctuated by synth pads from the session's other guest-star, Holdsworth henchman keyboardist/mixer/masterer Steve Hunt - used here instrumentally as a colorist on a couple of tunes only. The important thing about his contribution on "Sharp" is that it comes exactly at the point in the song's form that gives it the preferred modern-edged color. Whereas on "Sides," Miller imparts this edge himself with fusiony chordal hues (think "uncommon" chords). On "Spark" he eschews such adornments in favor of a more straight-ahead ride, while retaining a modern guitar tone. Back to "Sharp"- guitar drops back in the mix, adding sophisticated comped voicings, leaving a bass line breakdown that sets up a changing swing-funk groove for Garzone to blow over. His improvisation begins with a very funky/soulful intro statement and immediately segues into bop-type, chromatic-laced, angular territory. When Miller literally picks up the solo where Garzone leaves off, with lines full of sax-like bop phraseology rather than more obviously scale-based runs, you'll hear the invention and depth in his lines that separates him from the world's modally-shredding-Shrapnel-Holdsworth-wanna-bes. It's the kernel of the great promise in his playing shown herein, and gives every indication of serving Tim well in the years to come.
What else bodes well for this unit? The next tune, "The Night," is a measured, two-feel ballad that finds Miller on acoustic steel-string and Garzone in breathy Getz-like territory. Miller exhibits a rather impeccable technique and evenness of attack on acoustic that's well removed from his electric shred. That being said, Tim's blistering electric work and the inventive, kinetic kitwork of Avsharian are not to be missed on the downtempo, textural, Driscoll-penned "Rubric."
"Passageway" is quite the little pop gemstone, an unheavyhanded-reggae-feel, Police-comparison-worthy, hummable yet emotional ditty that just begs for a set of lyrics to transform it into a hit vocal. Where have we heard it before? Like the best tunes, everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
Tim has distinguished himself over the last several months with great appearances on Lucas Pickford's Blown Fuse and on Dino Govoni's Breakin' Out . You can also look for him, along with the great European bassist Michel Benita, on Aldo Romano's Corners . Get this one at Audiophile Imports or at TIm Miller's website .
Track Listing: Sides, Looking to You, Improvisation 1, Sharp, The Night, Spark, Rubric, Improvisation 2, Passageway
Personnel: Tim Miller, guitars; James Driscoll, bass; and Rob Avsharian, drums. Guests: George Garzone, sax; and Steve Hunt, keys.
Record Label: ADM Records
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock