224

Mulgrew Miller: Life on the Bandstand

By

Sign in to view read count
Of course, they can say that they played with Mulgrew Miller (laughs).

Mulgrew Miller gave us splendid glimpses of great hard bop and post bop with a persona that tamed his bass foundations while beautifully freeing his right hand to dance the keys like his boyhood idol, Oscar Peterson. Dance he did. Miller’s keyboard forays pushed to the edge of improvisational fervour but the crowd (mostly 50-plus) also bobbed gleefully to Hart and Rodgers’ “Little Girl Blue” and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Wouldn’t You.”

These players come from two distinct and distinguished generations of jazz. As Miller approaches 50 years of age, his age of playing was tremendously augmented by the vibrant youth of bassist Derek Hodge and drummer Rodney Green. This version of the Mulgrew Miller Trio reflected Miller’s place in the hard bop landscape while displaying how much his younger band mates respect that tradition. This was especially true of Hodge, who seemed wonderfully comforted in his bass world so that, occasionally, he arched back with head raised skyward in focus. Miller reached a similar intensity numerous times, as did Green.

It was wonderfully refreshing to watch how Miller’s experience so influenced Hodge and Green. Clearly, they are learning greatly from each other. It was not that many years ago that a young Mulgrew Miller got his mandate from another great pianist: Oscar Peterson. “I was blown away,” recalls Miller. “It was a life changing event. I knew right then that I would be a jazz pianist.”

Derek Hodge already possesses a philosophical understanding of how powerfully bass works in a group context. His decisions ranged from the obvious traditional, rhythmic character on the older songs to the cutting edge that fuses styles and influences. This young native of Philadelphia may have a long and healthy career ahead. Mulgrew Miller thinks so of both his bassist and drummer.

Rodney Green caused a stir on this night, mostly to the good, often to the great. Although he was playing mostly on the bop downbeat, Green used almost every conceivable way to hit something in front of him with the touch of a feather. The effect was highly compelling to hear and tremendously interesting to watch. Only in a series of final rhythm breaks did one drop of sweat fall from his dreadlocks.

I had to close my eyes to confirm how Green’s playing slightly detracted from the trio: one too many soloists. The ear can digest only one main solo at a time. The trio deftly took turns at all the right breaks to make this distinction. However, Green’s rhythmic designs so aggressively supported Miller’s solos that the listener felt the need to choose on whom to focus. Their aural autonomy sometimes created an unnecessarily chaotic sound. This was unfortunate because both players were fabulous.

Live jazz always has its moments. Each member of this trio took turns exchanging quizzical looks at some unintended tangents. Miller, Hodge and Green all shared slight, knowing smiles at the end results. So did we.

Score another hit for Vancouver’s Jazz Cellar – a local joint that is making its name among the cats in New York. In the last six months, Mulgrew Miller and Kenny Garrett have travelled far to play The Cellar. Dr. Lonnie Smith arrives to take the stage in September.

On this night, the Mulgrew Miller Trio ruled.


Shop

More Articles

Read Panama Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Panama Jazz Festival 2017
by Mark Holston
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom Live Reviews Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
by Geoff Anderson
Published: February 20, 2017
Read The Cookers at Nighttown Live Reviews The Cookers at Nighttown
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: February 16, 2017
Read Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens Live Reviews Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 15, 2017
Read "The Tierney Sutton Band at SFJAZZ Center" Live Reviews The Tierney Sutton Band at SFJAZZ Center
by Asher Wolf
Published: August 17, 2016
Read "The Power Quintet at Jazz Standard" Live Reviews The Power Quintet at Jazz Standard
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 5, 2016
Read "The Donny McCaslin Group at The Arden Gild Hall" Live Reviews The Donny McCaslin Group at The Arden Gild Hall
by Mike Jacobs
Published: January 25, 2017
Read "T Sisters at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews T Sisters at SFJAZZ
by Asher Wolf
Published: July 21, 2016
Read "Chris Potter Quartet at Village Vanguard" Live Reviews Chris Potter Quartet at Village Vanguard
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 29, 2016
Read "Kronos Festival 2017" Live Reviews Kronos Festival 2017
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: February 12, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!