Doug Miller: Regeneration (2008)
An active bassist/composer/educator from the Seattle, Washington area, Doug Miller has toured with top big band names like the Count Basie Orchestra, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra (under the direction of Mercer Ellington). Having provided a strong side-man presence on numerous releases for Origin Records, Miller gets the opportunity to step into the spotlight as leader with Regeneration, a unique representation of straight-ahead mainstream jazz.
The bulk of the disc is comprised of Miller's stripped-down original compositions performed by a drummer-less trio with drummer Phil Parisot adding a little extra flair to four of the eleven cuts. The bassist composes in short melodic fragments, emphasizing rhythm and creating a harmonic landscape geared for improvised exploration. His swinging 7/4 opener, "Seven More," draws inspiration from John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," and begins a sequenced descent through different time signatures over the disc's first four tracks ("Unity Dance" is in 6/4, "Ice Cave" is in 5/4 "Blues For Junior" is in 4/4). The most interesting of Miller's tunes comes toward the end of the disc with the carefully developed "Ballad for Don and Midge" and the straight-ahead bopper "Lighten Up." The latter featuring inspired set-closing solos from trumpeter Jay Thomas and guitarist Dave Peterson.
Thomas proves to be quite a multi-instrumentalist, skillfully handling trumpet and flugelhorn, with tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone and flute. On "Ice Cave," one can even contrast his sharp trumpet and breathy tenor within the same tune. Peterson relies heavily on single-note lines for solos and sparse chords for accompaniment. The agile guitarist patiently weaves some interesting lines with horn-like phrasing.
Miller's bass playing is featured prominently throughout with arco and pizzicato soloing. It is his unaccompanied bass reading of "Bye Bye Blackbird," however, that really sums up what his playing is all about: no-nonsense, punchy and swinging. The influence of heavy hitter's like bassists Ray Brown and John Clayton is made obvious through nicely-phrased blues licks, double stops and chords.
This music is both interesting and fun. Miller and company come across as a strong, like-minded unit.
Track Listing: Seven More; Unity Dance; Ice Cave; Blues For Junior; Avenue C - Part One; Avenue C - Part Two; Invitation; No Jazz; Bye Bye Blackbird; Ballad For Don And Midge; Lighten Up.
Personnel: Jay Thomas: trumpet, flugelhorn, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Dave Peterson: guitar, keyboard; Doug Miller: bass; Phil Parisot: drums (1,3,8,11).