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The untimely demise of Emily Remler from a heart attack more than 10 years ago, left a void in the ranks jazz guitarists in general and female guitar players in particular. Now comes Jane Miller out of the Boston area who seems to have the technique and the ability to apply it to fill that void. On this her second album (her first one was Postcard ), she applies a variety of rhythmic patterns to a tasteful play list of familiar pop and jazz standards plus two of her originals. It's no surprise that Miller's sound is influenced by a number of guitar players from the past, including Wes Montgomery, Billy Bauer and Jim Hall.
The variety of approaches she takes to musically addressing the material chosen for this album is one of the session's great strengths. Henry Mancini's "Days of Wine and Roses" is an up tempo burner with Miller adventurously improvising above the melody line and getting some excellent support from pianist Bill O'Connell. This track recalls the Bill Evans/ Jim Hall collaborations of the 1960's. The classic standard "Summertime" is built on around an African beat, while one of the most recorded tunes of all time, "Body and Soul", is done as a bossa nova. "Stella by Starlight" is typically performed somberly and seriously consonant with the haunting nature of this tune. Throwing aside convention, Miller does it with a jazzy, medium lilt with just the right harmonies coming from the guitar as she and bassist Bob Simonelli have a bit of fun with this Ned Washington/Victor Young composition written for the cult film The Uninvited.
These popular music standards are complemented by the presence of jazz material composed by foremost modern jazz musicians. Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" and Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance" allow Miller to display her ability to deal with fairly complex material and make it sound melodic and interesting. But it is the Miles Davis/Bill Evans seminal composition "Blue in Green" which I found the most persuasive in this category of music. Done as a duo of Miller and Simonelli with long flowing, uninterrupted lines, the performance testifies to Miller's sensitivity to what she is playing and her ability to move that sensitivity through her instrument to the audience. It's quite impressive. The mellow trombone of Jay Ashby joins on Miller's "Amigo". A longish six ½ minute piece, very introspective with a good harmonic structure, it is a tribute to Miller's compositional qualities.
Secret Pockets has all the elements to make it the quality session it is, eclectic play list with a talented group of musicians determined to translate the play list into a pleasurable listening experience.
Tracks:Summertime; Pebble Beach; Amigo; Waltz New; Body and Soul; The Days of Wine and Roses; Footprints; Secret Pockets; Dolphin Dance; Stella by Starlight; Blue in Green
Personnel: Jane Miller - Guitar; Bob Simonelli - Bass; Don Kirby - Drums; Jay Ashby - Trombone/Percussion; Bill O'Connell - Piano
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.