Pacific Sun Music

Sweet Honey in the Throck 
Drummer Allison Miller brings her avant-jazz sounds to Mill Valley


Can jazz be saved?  Directors Michael Rivoira, Lars Larson and Peter J. Vogt posed that provocative question in their 2009 documentary, Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense, which debuted at the Mill Valley Festival and has since spawned a vibrant discussion forum on Facebook. 
The film explores the mercurial creative force through insightful interviews and electrifying concert footage that spotlight the current crop of jazz musicians while pondering the future of the genre. 
In one interview, trumpet player Terence Blanchard calls these times the "quiet revolution," a moment in jazz history when inventive young players are shunning commercial success and redefining the genre, even as many in the jazz community hold fast to past masters. 
Brooklyn-born drummer Allison Miller, 37, is one such forward-thinking player.
You can find her traveling the country, conspiring with Shakers 'n' Bakers, a Massachusetts-based avant-jazz ensemble that performs trance renditions of Shaker hymns and vision songs. Or pounding the skins down in La-La Land for former Indigo Girl Amy Ray, in her current progressive folk-rock incarnation. Or supplying tasteful brushwork for a straight-ahead jazz trio in support of North Beach jazz vocalist Kitty Margolis. Or, at an April 6 show at 142 Throckmorton in Mill Valley, teaming up with her own group, the newly formed Honey Ear Trio, and as a member of experimental bassist and bandleader Todd Sickafoose's Tiny Resistors.
While Miller's most often identified with the mavens of the uber-hip Downtown jazz scene and its offspring, mainstream artists also have marched to her beatAni DiFranco, Natalie Merchant and Brandi Carlile, to name a few.
And the mainstream press has been quick to embrace herthe L.A. Times named Miller's recent solo CD, Boom Tic Boom, one of the best jazz albums of 2010. The album also features Sickafoose, pianist Myra Melford and violinist Jenny Scheinman.
More recently, her latest project, the Honey Ear Triowhich made its West Coast debut on April 1 in Arcatahas racked up rave reviews for its debut CD, Steampunk Serenade.
New York magazine opined: "This new collective of old friendssaxophonist Erik Lawrence, bassist Rene Hart and drummer Allison Millerjust released their sharp, irresistibly funky debut, Steampunk Serenade, and are staking their claim as one of the boldest sax trios around."
Jazz critic Bill Milkowski of the JazzTimes was no less effusive: "Remarkable chemistry in this extremely elastic acoustic triostartling debut."
Indeed, Lawrence has rich tone and at times sounds like the reincarnation of the late bebop great Frank Morgan.
And you need only sample Miller's drumming on the title trackin which every roll, every rimshot is perfectly placedto recognize her role in martialing in the quiet revolution. 
SPiN of the Week
Miles Davis: Sketches of Spain 
(Legacy Vinyl)
This newly released 180-gram audiophile pressing of the classic 1960 reunion of trumpeter Miles Davis and producer/arranger Gil Evans delivers quiet, sonically rich qualities befitting this contemplative music. The sultry follow-up to Davis's landmark 1959 modal masterwork, Kind of Blue, features a jazz cover of Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" for guitar and orchestra, the album's centerpiece, and was inspired, in part, by Manuel de Falla's 1915 ballet El Amor Brujo. The original LP version does not feature "Song of Our Country," which appears on expanded CD versions.GC

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