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Album Review

Mike Miller: Trust

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Mike Miller: Trust
This record is more than a breath of fresh air. It is more like when you open the front door and that momentary rush of crisp wind blows in. Trust embraces that sensation and creates a limitless screen door of opportunity. Ten original and melodious compositions by Mike Miller seamlessly flow, and both sustain and cherish the feel of the moment for the duration.

The magnitude of this project propelled Miller to assemble an elite group of musicians. He even pulls off the rarely seen "Triple Jimmy." Bassists Jimmy Johnson, Jimmy Earl, and Jimmy Haslip each bring a uniquely compelling voice to their instruments. Drummers Gary Novak, Chad Wackerman, Tom Brechtlein, and Mike Shapiro round out a rhythm section that again represents a varied background and skill set. Walt Fowler and Brandon Fields provide a formidable horn section. There are several more key musicians (pun intended), including keyboardists Jeff Babko and Scott Kinsey.

Miller and Earl kick off "Reindeer Glue" with a burst of contrasting lines, then slyly build to a crafty texture that incorporates a dash of Steely Dan into an original and intelligent framework. Miller gives more than a glimpse of his articulate and wide-ranging axe skills. The highly melodic tune firmly establishes the impact of the Fowler/Fields horn section, and Babko's addition to the depth. The nearly eight-minute song also features an energized Novak moving about on his kit. "Reindeer Glue" is quite impactful in setting the compass. The direction moves on a gentler course as the title track opens. "Trust" sparkles with Miller's cunning note selections. The understated tune washes over as if to slowly relax, breathe, and take it all in. "The Church of Getting Up In The Morning" begins with the same sense of calm as "Trust." The new dawn is serene at the outset, before waking up into explorations of the anticipation and glory of a new day. Miller then makes the bold statement that "All Cows Eat Grass." As you might imagine, this is an upbeat change in direction where the mission is to just let loose and have some fun...and that they do!

What happens next is a testament to the magic that can happen when a brilliant composition is met with musicianship equal to the task. Wackerman and Johnson make their first appearance on "Colvin." Their conversation is rich and engaging. They could finish each other's sentences. Fortunately, Miller is fluent in the same language. Together they have an expressive musical discussion. Miller's articulate vocabulary is brought to the fore and is on vivid display. This exceptionally bright melody showcases Miller's abilities as both a composer and a musician. The compass then points to a guest appearance from percussionist hero Airto Moreira. Indeed, the song is called "Mr. Moreira." Singers Marilyn Scott and Katrina Velarde add their voices which they use as instruments, harmonically scatting the melody in duet. Wind patterns change. This unexpected change-up adds spice to the mix. The breezy take fits nicely, characterizing the continuous path defined at the outset.

"Furtive" has a taut inner energy delivered from Novak and Earl is the foundation for this inventive creation. Fields and Fowler further push it and drive it forward, while Miller supplies the softer contrast. Later Miller leads a host of clever changes in a superbly arranged song that continues to build for a joyful nine minutes-plus ride. "Twankle" then reaffirms the mission statement. Taking a collective breath, the song recaptures the vibe of the title track. Trust is a musical mosaic. "Twankle" is precise confirmation that this is a musical journey, not just a collection of songs. The softly inviting intro on "Alberto" intriguingly offers a vibe that the song could go anywhere, in any direction, to follow the wind. Wackerman and Johnson return for a second appearance and lead the way with increasingly inventive play. Miller feeds off of it like a hungry bear. His note selections and variant interplay with the handsome rhythm section are a thing of beauty.

Trust closes with Miller showcasing his guitar case full of skills on "Bipolar Bear." Haslip and Kinsey join the party, and Brechtlein returns to thicken the percussive pot with Novak. While Fowler and Fields take advantage of the fresh mix to kick it up a notch, in truth they were a huge part of this record's refreshing sound throughout. In solos and duet they were the continuous rays of sunshine.

Mike Miller is a quiet beast. He never overplays. Never. That takes a lot of discipline. He clearly respects the music. Consequently, you may find that he has completed a truly outstanding record. On this effort, Miller would seem to have proudly checked all the boxes.

Track Listing

Reindeer Glue; Trust; The Church of Getting Up In The Morning; All Cows Eat Grass; Colvin; Mr. Moriera; Furtive; Twankle; Alberto; Bipolar Bear.

Personnel

Mike Miller: guitar; Gary Novak: drums; Jimmy Earl: bass; Jimmy Johnson: bass, electric; Chad Wackerman: drums; Jimmy Haslip: bass; Tom Brechtlein: drums; Walt Fowler: trumpet; Brandon Fields: saxophone; Terry Miller: bass, acoustic; Jeff Babko: keyboards; Scott Kinsey: keyboards; Mike Shapiro: drums; Airto Moreira: percussion; Marilyn Scott: voice / vocals; Katrina Velarde: voice / vocals.

Album information

Title: Trust | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Blue Canoe Records


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