Allison Miller
Gig Seeker Pro

Allison Miller

New York City, New York, United States

New York City, New York, United States
Band Jazz Avant-garde




"Miller is fast becoming my favorite drummer, as fascinating to hear as she is to watch."

Honey Ear Trio
Steampunk Serenade
(Foxhaven Records)

One of the most hypnotic tracks on this album is “Eyjafjallajokull (Icelandic Volcano Hymn”), a lovely Erik Lawrence composition named for last year’s dramatic eruption that grounded so many planes that the members of the band were suddenly available to record. And if a natural disaster can’t be called lucky, this one had some lucky consequences. Honey Ear Trio – Lawrence on sax, Allison Miller on drums and Rene Hart on bass -- is very aptly named. They take listeners on a roller coaster of sounds and beats, and it’s a sweet ride.

From “Matter of Time,” Lawrence’s heartbreaking tune floating above and winding through Miller’s grab bag of rhythms while Hart gently steers the changes, to the title track, a delightful mash-up of sounds and recurring melodies that seem to fit together effortlessly, to Hart’s sweet samba, “Luminesque,” and a fresh take on “Over the Rainbow,” there is much to appreciate the more you listen. Miller is fast becoming my favorite drummer, as fascinating to hear as she is to watch. She and Hart keep things interesting below while Lawrence’s brilliant playing carries the melodies like a cool breeze, sometimes interrupted by wild weather. Great fun for amateurs as well as jazz conoscenti.

--Kay Cordtz - Elmore: Saving American Music

"ACL Live Shots"

Good thing Brandi Carlile had a killer arrangement of "Dreams" handy, since drummer Allison Miller practically stole the show from the Seattle singer by tearing off an opening drum flourish with energy usually reserved for an encore. - Austin Chronicle

"Allison Miller: Breaking Ground"

It takes a rare individual to excel in multiple artistic genres, particularly when success unfolds in the public spotlight and presents very different contexts. Certainly technical ability is important, but it also takes a peculiar blend of flexibility, curiosity, and determination. Perhaps that is what makes drummer, composer, bandleader, and outspoken feminist Allison Miller such a charismatic musician and personality.

As a drummer, she has distinguished herself in both the jazz and singer-songwriter genres, playing with some of the most illustrious representatives of both musical schools. She is equally confident playing free-jazz with Marty Ehrlich as touring with popular icons Ani DiFranco, Brandi Carlile, and Natalie Merchant. Her star qualities led her to being featured in the Showtime series L World, and have given rise to a growing lesbian fan club. She is an accomplished bandleader whose recently released jazz album, Boom Tic Boom (Foxhaven Records, 2010), has received consistent accolades. Her playing is subtle and texturally rich, and in the hands of band mates Myra Melford (piano), Todd Sickafoose (bass), and Jenny Scheinman (violin) her compositions navigate a brilliant tension between straight-ahead melodies and experimental improvisation to create a soulful balance.

see link for full article. - All About Jazz

"Jazz Drummers vary the Beat"

In jazz, this is the era of the drummer. On a scene largely defined by the proliferation of creatively ambitious trap set experts, every year seems to bring a new crop of gifted rhythmic explorers. While steeped in jazz history, many of these musicians rove freely across stylistic frontiers, drawing from gospel, funk, folk, Balkan, Cuban and other deep musical wells.

Over the next month, three drummer/bandleaders who've forged highly personal group sounds from myriad musical sources perform in the Los Angeles area. While sounding nothing alike, Brian Blade, Steve Smith and Allison Miller all embody the way that drummers are directing jazz's evolution.

Blade has spent the past decade driving saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter's quartet, jazz's most formidable foursome. Since the Louisiana native first broke onto the national scene with Joshua Redman in the mid-1990s, he's been sought by such luminaries as Pat Metheny, Billy Childs and Bill Frisell.

What sets Blade apart from his peers is that he's also toured and recorded with Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris and Joni Mitchell, who paid the drummer the ultimate compliment by contributing a ravishing vocal track on his Fellowship band's 2000 album "Perceptual" (Blue Note). Inspired by Mitchell's soul-baring songs, Blade brings all of his various experiences to bear in the Fellowship, a sextet with a book of soaring, gospel-tinged anthems.

"I wasn't aware of it, but maybe there's this cumulative preparatory school that's at work," said Blade, 40, after a recent Oakland performance with Chick Corea. "The influence of Joni and Bob's music is so profound, and I want our music to have that urgency and clarity. I don't look down on playing songs. It can be as urgent and passionate as playing something extemporaneous and unscripted."

Blade started his musical career in the Zion Baptist Church where his father was a minister in Shreveport. After studying violin for several years, he took over the drum chair in church band at 13, when his older brother went away to college. The experience still resonates in his music. "In hindsight, I realize that playing in church taught me the essentials of being part of a group, and how to return your gift submitting yourself to a group's requirements," Blade said.

After playing music ranging from thrash to funk in high school, he turned on to John Coltrane. While attending Loyola University in New Orleans, Blade hooked up with a group of young musicians who shared his passion for improvisation, including pianist/keyboardist Jon Cowherd, trumpeter Nicholas Payton and pianist Peter Martin.

Blade broke into rock's upper echelon when Iggy Pop happened into a New Orleans nightclub where he was performing. Iggy raved about the drummer to singer-songwriter Daniel Lanois, and after a jam session encounter Blade landed a four-month gig with the Grammy Award-winning producer. He quickly became a first-call cat for Lanois' studio projects, appearing on Harris' "Wrecking Ball" and Dylan's "Time Out of Mind."

Lanois produced the 1998 debut "Brian Blade Fellowship" (Blue Note), but Blade and Cowherd have produced the group's subsequent releases, most recently 2008's "Season of Changes" (Verve). While the band reflects Blade's embracing musical vision, as a bandleader he expects his bandmates to share responsibility for shaping each tune.

"What it boils down to is that I'm the drummer, and maybe I'm making some arrangements, but we've got the trust to make a collective cry," Blade said. "I acknowledge my influences, the elders and forefathers who created the music: Art Blakey, Papa Jo Jones, Chick Webb, Art Taylor, Jimmy Cobb, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams. I'm walking in this line and trying to lift up the tradition while being true to myself and what I hear."

Drummer Steve Smith's took a very different path to a similar point of view. While he started his career as a hard-swinging jazz musician in Boston, the rock world knows Smith best as the drummer who powered Journey during the band's hit-making heyday. Since the mid-1980s, he's concentrated on fusion outfits like his gritty band Vital Information. At the same time, he's the primary keeper of drum legend Buddy Rich's legacy.

Rather than resting on his daunting pile of laurels (he won top honors from Modern Drummer so often that the magazine took him out of contention), Smith has spent the past decade immersing himself in the world's other great improvisational tradition: classical Indian music.

A chance gig with a tabla player in 2001 sparked Smith's interest in South Indian culture, and he began applying the Carnatic rhythmic philosophy to the trap set while also developing his skills in konakol, or vocal percussion. When tenor saxophonist George Brooks recruited Smith for his Indo-jazz supergroup Summit in 2003, he provided the drummer with the invaluable opportunity of working regularly with tabla maestro Zakir Hussain. ("Steve is an incredible drummer, one of the most sensitive drummers I've seen," Hussain said.)

Smith started collaborating with guitarist Prasanna, who divides his time between the southern Indian city of Chennai (formerly Madras) and Boston, in 2004 as a duo playing classical recitals. Adding Brooks as a third voice, they formed the Raga Bop Trio and released an eponymous debut album on Abstract Logix in July.

"Prasanna heard that I was a Western drummer comfortable with Indian rhythms," said Smith, 56, from his Marin County home studio. "Bringing George into the mix was natural. He's steeped in North India's Hindustani tradition, and we all love rock, funk and Afro-Caribbean rhythms. It's kind of an embarrassment of riches."

In much the same way that Smith bridged musical worlds in the 1980s, drummer Allison Miller is leading a double musical life, touring and recording with charismatic singer-songwriters Ani DiFranco, Brandi Carlile and Erin McKeown, while also working regularly with jazz greats such as organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, reed master Marty Ehrlich and trumpeter Steven Bernstein.

Featured prominently on "The L Word," Miller's music has attained new depth and power with Boom Tic Boom, an all-star quartet. Though not initially inclined to lead her own band, Miller found that she needed a well-defined home for her rapidly evolving compositional sensibility.

"Leading the band is creating a palette to get that music out there," said Miller, 36. "It's funny, I write at the piano and the last thing I think about is the drum part. I'd write the music, find the right players, get on the bandstand and go, 'Oh my God, what do I do now?' This is the perfect band. I love the way each player takes my simple melodies and brings them to life."

Andrew Gilbert - LA Times

"Album Review: Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom"

Jazz is historically a male-dominated field, and the list of famous female jazz drummers isn’t a terribly long one. But with the rowdily named “Boom Tic Boom,” Allison Miller stakes a claim to being one of the most promising drummers in the game, regardless of gender.

Perhaps better known for her rock-oriented work backing singer-songwriters Ani DiFranco and Brandi Carlile, Miller has made a name for herself accompanying New York City heavyweights such as Steven Bernstein, Erik Friedlander and Mike Stern. Joined by DiFranco bandmate Todd Sickafoose on bass and pianist Myra Melford, Miller's second album as a bandleader is a free-wheeling and often invigorating collection that should appeal to fans of post-bop and the cutting edge.

Rising out of a series of delicate cymbal explorations, “Fead” evolves into a beautifully rough-hewn swing, and "Big Lovely" features a rollicking turn from Melford over a swampy groove from Sickafoose and Miller. Stretching her band mates with a seemingly endless variety of bold improvisations, Melford also composes two of the album’s most atmospheric pieces, the off-kilter “Be Melting Snow” and “Night,” which simmers atop contemplative percussion textures from Miller. Jazz violinist Jenny Scheinman also joins the trio to lend a Western-leaning swerve to the joyful “CFS (Candy Flavored Sidewalk).”

Miller is a drummer who knows her history -- the album also features an intimate take on Hoagy Carmichael’s “Rockin’ Chair” and a hip-shaking reworking of Mary Lou Williams’ “Intermission.” With more inspiring albums like this one, her standing as a relative rarity in her field could be history as well.

-- Chris Barton
- LA Times

"Allison Miller: Explosive Material"

May 2010
Mike Shanley

Rarely a month goes by in which Allison Miller doesn’t have some musical commitment, ranging from tours with singer-songwriters Ani DiFranco and Brandi Carlile to gigs with Marty Ehrlich or her Agrazing Maze band with Ingrid Jensen. So when a 30-day stretch of free time came along in the summer of 2008, the drummer used it wisely. She headed straight for the piano each morning, fleshing out ideas that would become a follow-up to her 2004 debut as a leader, 5 a.m. Stroll.

Having recently attended the annual Michigan Womyn’s Festival—a now 35-year-old gathering open only to the sisterhood—her female friends were heavy on her mind as she wrote. A night of listening to records with singer-guitarist Toshi Reagon inspired the sly, funky “Big Lovely”; reuniting with a fellow drummer in Wyoming led to “Cheyenne,” a minor vamp that finds a way to groove in 11/4. Along the way, she transcribed Mary Lou Williams’ “Intermission” from her Zoning record, writing a full arrangement—also in 11—for what originally was a two-minute sketch. The resulting album, Boom Tic Boom (Foxhaven), wasn’t intended to focus on women, but the subject acts as an undercurrent to most of the tracks.

What comes across most blatantly on the recording is Miller’s presence as a leader and her rapport with her bandmates. Bassist Todd Sickafoose has crossed genres like Miller, playing with her in DiFranco’s band. The drummer had only played with Myra Melford once, but that was enough to know the inquisitive pianist would bring a great deal to the compositions. “I never feel like she’s playing licks or is on autopilot,” Miller, 35, says of Melford. “I feel like she’s bringing full creativity, and I also like her sound. It’s very percussive; it’s fiery and light. To me it’s very buoyant and joyful and kind of bouncy. She was able to take these seemingly straightahead songs and completely put a Myra Melford twist to them. And make them seem buoyant and free, which I really enjoy.”

After the trio premiered the music in a September 2008 concert at the Jazzschool in Berkeley, a studio session was inevitable. Violinist Jenny Scheinman joined them on one track, and the band branched out into new territory that Miller eagerly accepts. “Since 5 a.m. Stroll, I’ve really gone into a more avant-garde world, but with a straightahead background,” Miller says, adding that Melford helped because she “is the combination of both.” “Be Melting Snow,” one of Melford’s two contributions to the session, starts with an out-of-tempo theme in which everyone seems to play the melody, Miller included. The drummer gets continually more restless as the track progresses, pushing the band into a frenzy.

This contrasts perfectly with the previous tune, Hoagy Carmichael’s “Rockin’ Chair,” which sounds a bit more pastoral than the Louis Armstrong version that intrigued Miller. “What I did was straighten it out and elongate the harmonic form,” Miller explains. “For every measure the melody took up before, it now takes up two measures. On the original there are a lot of dominant-seventh chords, and a lot of the time, I took out a colored tone of the chord and was pretty specific about having mainly the root and the fifth.”

Miller has wanted to use the title Boom Tic Boom since her teacher, drummer Michael Carvin, used it to describe her approach over 10 years ago. “He said it’s very apropos of my playing. The ‘boom’ is loud and the ‘tic’ is quiet, and [it’s] dynamic and melodic. It’s also a little playful and silly, which is very much my personality,” she says, laughing. “I don’t want to take myself too seriously. Life is too short for that.”

Never one to squander any of her time, Miller was able to balance the busy schedules of Melford, Sickafoose and Scheinman to book a weeklong tour in March of this year. The album and the band—which has more material in progress—reflect a new outlook that has given Miller confidence about the finished release, a feeling she didn’t quite have with previous output. “Maybe in general now, I’m just a happier person,” she says. “As Ani DiFranco says in one of her new songs, ‘If you’re getting older and you’re not getting happier, you’re fucking up.’”
- JazzTimes


Steampunk Serenade, Honey Ear Trio (Foxhaven Records)
Live at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Brandi Carlile (Columbia Records)
Megaphone My Heart, Jessica Lurie

BOOM TIC BOOM, Allison Miller (Foxhaven Records) “LA Times” top 10 jazz release of 2010
Live in Chicago, Ani Difranco (Righteous Babe Records)
Undiscovered Country, Lindsey Horner (Artist Share)
Singing in the Dark, Susan McKeown

EMMA, Emma
100's of Lions, Erin McKeown (Righteous Babe Records)
Wild Women of Song, Pamela Rose (Three Handed Records)
Shop Of Wild Dreams, Jessica Lurie

Red Letter Year, Ani Difranco (Righteous Babe Records)
Ask The Planet, Coyote Childrens Choir (Biomimicry Institute)
YFZ, Shakers n' Bakers (Little I Music)
Live At Babeville, Ani Difranco (Righteous Babe Records)
Tiny Resistors, Todd Sickafoose (Cryptogramophone)

Live in Hamburg, Ani Difranco (Righteous Babe Records)
Canon, Ani Difranco (Righteous Babe Records)
Lafayette, Erin Mckeown (Signature Sounds)
Fingerprint, Erik Deutsch (Sterling Circle Records)
Merge, Merge (Merge Poetry Music)
Hipmotism, Erik Lawrence and Hipmotism (Hipmotism)

Dryland, Chris Pureka (Sad Rabbit Music)
Jungle Soul, Doctor Lonnie Smith (Palmetto Records)
Sing You Sinners, Erin Mckeown (Nettwerk)
Shakers n' Bakers, Shakers n' Bakers (Little I Music)
Persistencia, Victor Prieto (Foxhaven Records)
What I Want, Nora York (Say-Yes Records)
Radiate, Mila Drumke Band (LittlePro Records)

At the End of the Day, Agrazing Maze (Foxhaven Records)
“All About Jazz NY” top 10 jazz release of 2005
L Word: The Second Season Sessions, Original Score
Retrospective 1995-2005, Natalie Merchant (Myth America Daughter)
News on the Rail, Marty Ehrlich Sextet (Palmetto Records)
Don't Count on Glory, Lindsey Horner (Cadence Records)
Sing It To Me Anyway, Nadine Goellner (Sophisticated Moon Prod.)
Best of Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2003, various (Rounder Records)
Montclair Women's Big Band, Dir. Ellen Seeling (Pivotal Records)

5AM Stroll, Allison Miller (Foxhaven Records)
Heart and Soul: Live in San Fransisco, Kitty Margolis (Mad Kat Records)
Sing, Lauren Cregor (Ten Good Records)

House Carpenter's Daughter, Natalie Merchant (Myth America Records)
Up, Up and Away, Michael Feinstein (Concord Records)
Common Ground, Common Ground (Elon Iprov Vibes)
Phantoms,Virginia Mayhew (Renma Recordings)
Mockery, Fritter (Windjam)
On A Clear Day, Natalia Zuckerman (Talisman Records)

Medina Live in Concerto, Pino Daniele (BMG)
Free Country, Joel Harrison (ACT International)
Prophecy, Susan McKeown (Sheila-na-Gig Records)
Migratory, Maroon (Head Fulla Brains Records)
Build A Levee, Natalie Merchant (Elektra Records)
Monkey On A Rail, Terry Dame

On The Milkyway Express, Rachel Z Trio (Shrapnel Records) “Downbeat Critics Poll” top 10 jazz release of 2001
The Octaves Beyond Silence Project, (Ladyslipper Music)
See You In Zanzibar, Arthur Kell
No Walls, Virginia Mayhew (Renma Records) “Downbeat Critics Poll” top 10 jazz releases of 2001
Dawning of A New Way, Gina Roche (Dreambox Media)



NYC-based drummer Allison Miller defies all boundaries bringing her individual sound to diverse types of music while preserving their stylistic authenticity. She approaches each of these musical situations with a creative, fresh and energetic approach. Allison was chosen as “Rising Star Drummer” in Downbeat Magazine’s 53rd, 58th and 59th Annual Critics Poll.

Raised in the Washington D.C. area, Miller began playing the drums at the age of ten, studying with Walter Salb, and was soon thereafter featured in Downbeat Magazine's "Up and Coming" section in 1991. Five years later, after graduating, Summa Cum-Laude, from West Virginia University, she moved to New York City to study with Michael Carvin and Lenny White and pursue what has become a fruitful career as a bandleader, freelance drummer, composer, producer, and teacher.

Miller spends much of her time touring her critically acclaimed group, BOOM TIC BOOM, but her talents have also landed her gigs in the mainstream music world, with artists like Natalie Merchant, Ani DiFranco, and Brandi Carlile; and her jazz skills have been embraced by everyone from avant-garde saxophonist Marty Ehrlich to organ legend Dr. Lonnie Smith, with a wide range of leaders in between, including Toshi Reagon, Steven Bernstein, Ben Allison, Kenny Barron, Todd Sickafoose, Jenny Scheinman, Ellery Eskelin, Ray Drummond, Sheila Jordan, Mike Stern, Rachel Z, Kevin Mahogany.

Allison’s second release as a leader, BOOM TIC BOOM (Foxhaven Records), was named “Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2010” by the LA Times. The album features pianist Myra Melford, violinist Jenny Scheinman, and bassist Todd Sickafoose. They have been featured at many festivals, including: The Earshot Jazz Festival, Saalfelden International Jazz Festival, Willisau International Jazz Festival, Redwood Jazz Festival, Mary Lou Williams/Kennedy Center Jazz Festival, Women in (e)Motion International Festival, East Coast Jazz Festival, and the Ars Nova Series.

She also co-leads Honey Ear Trio with Rene Hart on bass and electronics, and Erik Lawrence on reeds. Their 2011 release, “Steampunk Serenade” (Foxhaven Records) has been met with critical acclaim. “One of the year's most impressive jazz debuts.” – Time Out NYC.

Passing on the tradition of jazz drumming is also very important to Allison. She is currently on Modern Drummer’s 2011 Pro-panel and Yamaha’s Top 30 Clinicians List. She is a member of the Kutztown University music faculty and gives lessons and clinics throughout the United States. She has been featured in DRUM magazine, Downbeat, Jazz Times, Modern Drummer, Drummer UK, The LA Times, Jazziz, Yamaha All Access 360, TomTom Magazine, Traps, All About Jazz NY, and Female Musician magazine.

Allison endorses Yamaha drums, Zildjian cymbals, Vic Firth sticks and mallets, Evans heads, and LP Percussion.

For more information about Allison or to purchase her music please go to or