Take Five With Jim Miller

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Meet Jim Miller:

Administrator of ElectroJazz Music (BMI, 1980); founded Encounter Records in 1986 and Dreambox Media in 1995, resulting in Philadelphia Magazine's choice award for 1999 Best of Philly Jazz Record Label; Produced Evelyn Simms' On My Own, awarded Best Jazz Recording of 1989 by the Philadelphia Music Foundation.

Currently working and recording with Tyrone Brown (former bassist for Max Roach), the Jim Ridl Trio, the Tom Lawton Quintet, MONKadelphia and the Denis DiBlasio Quartet / Quintet. Two trips to Europe with pianist Brian Trainor. Adjunct Professor for Advanced Study of Drum Set on Jazz Faculty at Rowan University, Glassboro, N.J. Active Member American Federation of Teachers, Local 2373. Member of JazzBridge.org and Philadelphia Jazz Heritage Project advisory boards.

Dreambox Media (formerly Encounter Records) is an independent musicians' co-op dedicated to promoting the rich tradition of distinctively original and creative Philadelphia jazz artists performing a wide range of jazz styles.

Since Philadelphia jazz has a rich tradition of breeding distinctively original and creative artists, Dreambox Media aims to supplement and provide an alternative to the mass market-driven policy decisions made by other record labels.

Releasing works by under-recorded veterans and deserving newcomers, Dreambox Media enables these recordings to reach a wider audience through its own website, NorthCountry Distributors, amazon.com, and other outlets. Dreambox artists have played major jazz festivals and clubs all over the world, and have conducted local community workshops for students of all ages in the spirit of spreading the message of America's uniquely indigenous art form, a truly democratic music.

In early 2007, Dreambox Media / Encounter Records celebrated its twentieth anniversary, coinciding with its one hundredth release.

Instrument(s): Drums.

Teachers and/or influences? Brother Eugene, the "music guy" at my high school; my mom, who never discouraged the "music thing"; and every musician and vocalist I've ever encountered.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... My mom took me to the opening of a department store, where I saw a band inexplicably dressed like Paul Revere and the Raiders yet playing surf-jams; I checked out the drummer and something just inherently clicked: "I can do that!" It was like I already knew how to play simplistic 8th-note rock stuff.

Your sound and approach to music: I've got to be able to hear well enough to "melt" into the band. If I can't hear what's going on (due to bad acoustics, inattentive sound guys, whatever), I feel like I'm suffocating.

I've been blessed to work with many great bassists, and they're usually right next to me, so that's rarely a problem. But I've got to be able to hear the people out front—vocalist, horn(s), whatever—and even more essentially, the chordal/comping instrument (piano, guitar, etc.).

Your teaching approach: Everyone is a unique individual and requires a different approach...but I'm still gonna try and push what I think is important about jazz.

Your dream band: People who listen and react, so that every time you do a given tune it's different...a synergy thing, where the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts.

Road story: Your best or worst experience: Too many to get started on here...that's why I enjoy teaching "Business of Music" at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ... it's my chance to do stand-up for 90 minutes twice a week!

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? Jim Ridl's Your Cheatin' Heart. It was just a magically flowing session, everything in one or two takes (except for "Caravan," the way I remember it...that took awhile), which is due to the blend of the band Jim put together, his tunes, and the final mix.

The first Jazz album I bought was: Underground by Thelonious Monk. Way before I "got into" jazz... I bought it just for the cover art. I had no idea what it was. Also, Art Tatum's God Is In the House. The cover was nothing special on that one, so I don't know why.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? Listening, reacting.

CDs you are listening to now: Right now at this exact moment, I'm listening to "Tout De Suite" from Miles Davis' Filles De Kilimanjaro over and over again. Please, someone, help me make it stop!

Desert Island picks:

Any John Coltrane Quartet (mostly Impulse); Any Miles with Wayne Shorter (mostly Sony and bootlegs / imports); John Abercrombie, Timeless (ECM); Ethel Merman, The Ethel Merman Disco Album (FynsworthAlley).

How would you describe the state of jazz today? On life support, but thanks to the dedication of the musicians themselves and the hardcore fans, it will not perish from this earth.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? I've always thought that if the ratio was reversed just for one day—and the 99% of media that force-feeds us junk would play beautiful, quality music—you'd immediately see little kids wearing John Coltrane t-shirts. So in other words, it's exposure...through education and just generally "cheerleading" for jazz.

What is in the near future? MONKadelphia is finishing up a studio CD.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a: ...weird guy picking up invisible stuff off the sidewalk, muttering incessantly about "Miles was the man...he didn't take no crap from nobody."
About Jim Miller
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