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Mulgrew Miller: Live at the Kennedy Center, Volume 1

Joel Roberts By

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There's probably no better pianist working in the jazz mainstream today than Mulgrew Miller. The Mississippi native currently runs the jazz program at New Jersey's William Patterson University while maintaining a busy touring and recording schedule. Miller has come into his own as a leader in recent years after notable stints with Art Blakey, Woody Shaw and Tony Williams, among others.

This live trio recording from Washington, DC's Kennedy Center closely (perhaps too closely) follows the format of his previous two outings for the label, both live dates from Yoshi's jazz club in Oakland. But the new disc also shares the all-around excellence of the earlier efforts.

A powerhouse player who fits stylistically about halfway between McCoy Tyner and Oscar Peterson, Miller is capable of stunning virtuosity, as on the opening standard "If I Should Lose You, which begins in tranquility before Miller and his exceptional bandmates, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Rodney Green, shift into overdrive, creating whirlwinds of sound but remaining fully in control. A pair of fine Miller originals follow: "When I Get There, which draws on Miller's blues and gospel roots, and "From Day to Day, which highlights his more adventurous modern side.

While he's known mostly for the muscularity of his playing, Miller has a gentle touch with a ballad, which he showcases on Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark. The set closes with an impressive breakneck run through Charlie Parker's "Relaxin' At Camarillo.


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