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Mulgrew Miller's second release for MaxJazz, his first live recording as a leader, captures the pianist's current working trio featuring his long time associate, drummer Karriem Riggins, and the amazing young Philadelphia bassist Derrick Hodge, at Yoshi's, the Bay Area's premier jazz establishment, in a set of classic music that should stir any discerning listener. Miller possesses one the most impressive pedigrees in jazz today, boasting tenures with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Betty Carter, Art Blakey, Woody Shaw and Tony Williams and his imposing mature technique fittingly reflects this wealth of experience. A master of the piano tradition from Tatum to Tyner, this is his first chance in more than a decade to shine on record in the trio setting where he excels.
Miller's tremendous technical virtuosity is clearly evident from the beginning of the brisk tempo opener "If I Were A Bell," but it is the tasteful manner he exhibits in displaying his extraordinary abilities that is so inspiring. Throughout the date he demonstrates amazing articulation without ever leaving the listener thinking that any one of his many notes is being played simply for the sake of ostentation. On Donald Brown's lovely "Waltz For Monk" and Jobim's beautiful "O Grand Amor" he also shows that he is capable of breathtaking use of space. He swings mightily on Woody Shaw's "The Organ Grinder" and tenderly on Horace Silver's "Peace" and Ellington's "Don't You Know I Care."
On the bluesy interpretation of "What A Difference A Day Makes," the group evinces a classic sound with Hodge's arco bass solo divulging a prodigious talent with a bow that is practically unheard of in such a young player. Miller reveals his notable compositional skill on the closing "Pressing The Issue," a tour de force rhythmic assault that showcases Riggins' remarkable drumming and the more modernistic side of the unit that will hopefully be explored further with the release of the second volume of this truly great trio's first documented date.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.