Mark Christian Miller has been performing for over 20 years, mostly in southern California. Recordings are rare, however: perhaps because he's also been working as promoter, booker, manager and festival director. Debut album Dreamer With A Penny
(Sliding Glass Door) appeared in 2004; an album with Betty Bryant
(bry-mar music) in 2011. Crazy Moon
is a welcome addition to this short list.
Miller's voicecheerful, positiveis one of the warmest and most welcoming voices in jazz. It's hard to imagine that the man is anything but as warm and honest as that voice. He may, of course, be an international criminal mastermind of the most devious type, but the voice
Such a warm and upbeat voice could be a problem if Miller wanted to delve into the dark and downbeat fringes of jazzit's not easy to imagine him singing "Is That All There Is." Miller is a canny performer however: Crazy Moon
's collection of (mostly) lesser-known Songbook songs and Miller's vocals suit each other very well.
Miller's rendition of Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen's "Oh, You Crazy Moon" is representative of the album's positivity. The rhythm section creates a soft, mid-tempo, swing: Larry Koonse
's guitar solo is lovely, warm of tone and full of fluid single note phrases. Okay, that crazy moon broke Miller's heart, but he sounds like he bears the satellite no ill will. Bob Sheppard
's bass clarinet adds further comforting warmth and humor on "Strange"the instrument's rich, woody, sound becomes a delightful foil for Miller's light vocal. Ron Stout
's trumpet brings a contrasting touch of melancholy to "Second Chance," the song that best exhibits Miller's way with a sad song.
The arrangements, by pianist Josh Nelson
, Jamieson Trotter orin the case of "Cheek To Cheek" (which Miller sings as if bursting with happiness, matched by Nelson's lively piano) and "Oh, You Crazy Moon" by Nelson and Millerserve to highlight Miller's voice. Only Trotter's arrangement of "Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams" comes across as overly-complex (it's apparently meant to represent a movie dream sequence). Bob Dorough
's hip, up-tempo, swinger "I've Got Just About Everything" tells the tale of a man who's content with lifea man who feels "so wiggy" and declares "I like the human race." It's the most feel good of feel good songs: Miller and the band give it the performance it deserves.
Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams; Tomorrow Is My Turn; Cheek To Cheek; Second Chance; Oh, You Crazy Moon; Strange; Moonray; Twilight World; I've Got Just About Everything; April Fooled Me; Almost In Your Arms.
Mark Christian Miller: vocals; Josh Nelson: piano; Larry Koonse: guitar; Ron Stout: trumpet; Bob Sheppard: bass clarinet; Dave Robaire: bass; Sammy Miller: drums; Billy Hulting: percussion.