Mulgrew Miller: Live At Yoshi's, Volume One

Jim Santella By

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Gone are the days when a live recording would find the artist being drowned out by loud conversation or by microphones that are misplaced and under-valued. Just look at some of our treasured historical recordings of Bird and Diz, and from other pioneers such as Pops. Some of their early live sessions stood worlds apart from the superior sound later captured in the studio. MaxJazz in general, and Phil Edwards Recording in particular, have captured every nuance from Mulgrew Miller's performance last July in Oakland, California. Live at Yoshi's puts you there in the center section, third table from the left.

Miller?s itinerary places his trio in New York, Washington DC, and back at Yoshi?s in the coming months. If you're unable to make one of those appearances, well, then... this album fills the bill.

Adventurous and yet traditional, Miller has been influenced greatly by Oscar Peterson and McCoy Tyner. His technique is powerful; just right for hard-rolling bebop. Like Monk, he enjoys dissonant surprises and bubbly overtures. Having started his professional career with the Duke Ellington Orchestra under Mercer Ellington's leadership, Miller has great respect for the tradition of composed jazz that honors a specific idea or person. One look at his song listing for this session, and you get the idea. Tributes here have close connections to Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Tom Jobim, Woody Shaw, Horace Silver, Duke Ellington and Dinah Washington.

While the performance includes solos from bass and drums, it?s a pianist?s spotlight. Miller interprets with lyrical space when desired, and with passion when needed. Like Oscar Peterson, Miller is a master of the crisply flying keyboard. His phrases cascade up and down with expressive action in between.

Crisp and clean, Miller makes a mean machine. At times, however, a little more fire and emotion is needed. Monk-like dissonance works, up to a point. But Miller misses his chance when the temperature starts to rise. One example occurs a few minutes into ?What a Difference a Day Makes,? as the arrangement turns blue and the audience notices. The piece begins to swing with its blues mood, but Miller prefers to keep his distance. Instead of ?getting down? with his blues statement, the pianist comes out squeaky clean. Even a mournful, bowed bass solo can?t light the fires sufficiently.

Miller?s original ?Pressing the Issue? turns out much better. Here, and through much of the session, he explores up-tempo bebop with lengthy sections of piano counterpoint. Running from one end of the keyboard to the other, he wows the audience with neatly arranged, rapid-fire arpeggios and out-of- breath 16th-note swirls.

Track Listing: If I Were a Bell; Waltz for Monk; O Grande Amor; The Organ Grinder; Peace; Don't You Know I Care; What a Difference a Day Makes; Pressing the Issue.

Personnel: Mulgrew Miller- piano; Derrick Hodge- bass; Karriem Riggins- drums.

Title: Live At Yoshi's, Volume One | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: MAXJAZZ

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