Joel Miller
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Joel Miller


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TORONTO – February 27, 2007 – Joel Miller and his highly acclaimed Montreal-based jazz ensemble, “Mandala”, (featuring Joel Miller on saxophones, Thom Gossage on drums, Bruno Lamarche on saxophone, clarinet & flute, Fraser Hollins on bass, Bill Mahar on trumpet & cornet and Kenny Bibace on guitar) are currently touring across Canada this Spring in order to promote new music that will be released later this year on the Grammy-Award winning label ArtistShare, based in New York. The group is following up their debut, self-titled CD, Mandala which is currently available on Montreal’s prestigious jazz label, Effendi Records (
On Wednesday, March 28th (9:30 PM) & Thursday, March 29th (6:30 PM), Mandala will be at the apex of their National Canadian Tour, performing at Toronto’s foremost jazz venue, “The Rex Hotel & Jazz and Blues Bar”. Joel is thrilled to be performing in Toronto once again, and also excited to be part of ArtistShare, a revolutionary and cutting-edge project experience conceived by the brilliant Brian Camelio ( that enables artists to share their entire creative process with their audience through the world-wide web. With this new relationship on ArtistShare, Joel Miller will be joining an exciting roster, which includes creative and diverse internationally renowned jazz artists Maria Schneider, Brian Lynch and Jim Hall.
With their upcoming appearance in Toronto, “Mandala” is now at the mid-way point of their National Canadian Tour, having recently performed throughout the east coast to enthusiastic crowds at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick; The University of P.E.I. in Charlottetown; St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia and “The Tap Room” in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The tour will wind up with major appearances this spring in Winnipeg, Calgary, Nanaimo, at the world-famous “Cellar” in Vancouver (which will be recorded by Radio Canada for a national broadcast on Espace Musique) and finishing off with the Edmonton Jazz Society’s premiere venue, “The Yardbird Suite”.
- LMC Media

A lovely musical spirit flourishes in this Joel Miller recording wherein the title tune, "Mandala", establishes a melodic and emotionally satisfying tone that sounds throughout the entire recording.

As played by unison guitar and bass, the soulful melody of "Mandala" mirrors itself in shifting registers, while the tune's anticipated 'drone note' gets played by the rhythm section and soprano saxophonist Joel Miller in an interesting bit of musical role reversal. As the repeated melody changes from a light country lilt, then starts to rock, we find Miller fluently soloing on soprano above Gossage's clean ringing cymbals and concise rim shots, but it's guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel's inventive and wailing solo lines that eventually resolve the tune into a series of slow and calming country rock chords.

In compositions like "Shopping", "War con U.S.A", "Aqua land" (note trumpeter Bill Mahar's tart solo), "Now that I own a TV", and "Step Into My Office", the driving jazz aesthetic is most apparent, though it must be said, the general playing of Joel Miller and associates is consciously at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum from the feverish states aimed for in many American players' soloing.

But make no mistake: this is not elevator nor simplistic spiritualist music — it's just that Miller's clearly interested in singing the praises of creativity, and he largely achieves this through positive, affirmative musical means: he wrote most of the compositions in major keys; his melodies are simple and rhythmically active; and his own solos are notably direct and lyrical, with little side-stepping in them.

Further, this is a jazz album comfortably affiliated with the exalted spirit found in the best country rock, Gospel, and Celtic music ("Swing la bas caisse"), and it frequently organizes itself around the kind of meditative drones found in Indian classical music ("Mandala" and "Mandala Interlude").

Now that I've heard this CD, the need for an alternative music of positive, affirmative song, is abundantly clear, as delivered (thankfully) by these Canadian jazz musicians. - David Fujino — December 2005

"A very happening tenor player [who] has a very able ear for composition... [and] one of those sounds on tenor that makes you very glad that there is such a thing as the tenor saxophone. . . someone worth pursuing." - Katie Malloch, CBC’s Jazz Beat - - Katie Malloch, CBC’s Jazz Beat (17/09/98)

Joel Miller & Mandala
Franco Manitoba Cultural Center
March 30

THE final performance in the Canadian Jazz Concerts series was a perfect example of the calibre of talent we have in this country that is often overlooked. Playing to an underwhelming crowd of serious jazz fans, Joel Miller and Mandala put on a clinic in how accessible and exciting modern jazz can be.

First and foremost, Miller is a top-notch composer. After graduating from the music program at McGill University, he attended the Banff Jazz Workshop, where he honed his skills as a writer with Chucho Valdes, Kenny Wheeler and others. While most of his music reflects a modern sensibility, it also contains elements of blues, funk, bop and swing. Backed by a tight band, Bruno Lamarche (saxophone, clarinet, flute), Bill Mahar (trumpet, flugelhorn), Kenny Bibace (guitar), Fraser Hollins (bass) and Thom Gossage (drums), Miller showcased 11 original compositions from his previous CDs and from his new one that is set to be recorded in a couple of weeks.

The opening number, Aulochrome, named after a new instrument comprised of two soprano saxophones joined together, gave the band a chance to warm up with individual solos and some tight unison playing. Band members were following charts, while Miller was able to follow the complex rhythmic and time changes perfectly from memory and without missing a beat. He was the focal point of the band, reeling off some lyrical and inventive solos throughout the first set, but on numbers such as Rashers, Lamarche had a blazing bop solo on tenor saxophone and on the sublime Demasduit, written for the Beothuk people of Newfoundland, Mahar played a beautiful soft trumpet solo, while Gossage formed a fittingly tribal beat on the drums.

New compositions
After a short intermission, the band returned with a couple of new compositions, including one inspired by the recent George Clooney film and aptly entitled Syriana. This was a very rhythmically and harmonically complex piece that found the front horn section dashing in and out of each other with solos, while Gossage and Hollins anchored the beat.

There were too many highlights during the evening to pick just one, but a foray into drum n' bass entitled Anonymity featuring Gossage's funky drumming proved to be a lot of fun. Part way through the song, they deconstructed the entire beat, revealing the underlying structure, before ramping it up again for a dizzying finish.

The band ended the show with a fury featuring two cuts from the most recent album: the post-bop showcase Step Into My Office, which had the band members running on all cylinders, and the encore Mandala, the band's theme song, with its South African vibe. Overall, it was a highly entertaining show, and the positive energy from the band emanated throughout the small and enthusiastic crowd.

- Michael Wolch, April 3rd, 2007

The Montreal saxman and composer creates an excellent set of original music here showcasing his multi-faceted talents as well as those of his Quebec colleagues - trumpeter Bill Mahar, fellow saxist Bruno Lamarche, bass Fraser Hollins and quirky drummer Thom Gossage. There are 14 pieces, most offering catchy hooks, jumpy rhythmic structures and elements of Miller's productive experiments with out-of-jazz musicians. He has an attractive tone and is equally fond of melodic legato and stabbing phrasing. Recorded last November, tunes tend to be short - in fact, when relatively long ballads are worked over there's a palpable loss of energy and focus. The good title piece suggests South African township jive with clattering drums. Other cuts of note are "Cabeza de Vaca," "Rasher" and "Aqua Land," where the band quotes from bop classics. The Miller wit is offered up, too, on cuts like "Let's Go Shootin'." - Geoff Chapman, Toronto Star

"Cette fois, il a aspiré jazz moderne, jazz contemporain, musiques du monde, culture technoide, il en a fait une Pate. Il ya a du levain dans cette pate, a n'en point douter." - Alain Brunet La Presse

"His solos are supremely melodic - think of Stan Getz, or of John Coltrane at his most wistful... a terrific debut CD."

- Mark Miller, The Globe and Mail

"Miller admirably pushes forward with his music beyond bop conventions. He uses the instrumentation inventively, and composes extended forms with surprising sections."

- Peter Hum, The Ottawa Citizen

"Joel Miller a signé l’une des meilleures productions jazz du Canada publiées au cours des derniers mois."

- Serge Truffaut, Le Devoir

"an excellent set of original music"

- Geoff Chapman The Toronto Sun



CD coming out this fall on ARTISTSHARE

Mandala (Effendi Records 2004) Samples also available at
And Then Everything Started to Look Different (Effendi Records 2000)
Playgrounds (Justin-Time 1998)
Find a Way (Isthmus/Unity 1996)

Joel Miller (as sideman):

A Shorter Distance - Christine Jensen (Effendi Records 2002)
Collage - Christine Jensen (Effendi Records 2000)
Atmosphere - Brian Hurley (2000)
Acadian Folk Song - Greg Amirault (Effendi Records 1999)
Sky Beneath My Feet (L'institute Sexoacoustical 2003)



"What is doubtless one of the most creative jazz productions to come out of Canada."
-Montreal Gazette

"Parfois séduisante, parfois languisante"
-Jazz Hot (France)

Mandala is a creative Jazz ensemble led by Canadian saxophonist & composer Joel Miller. The group emerged from an exceptionally productive period of compositional workshops organized by Miller with fellow musicians Thom Gossage (drums), Bruno Lamarche (Saxophone, Clarinet & Flute), Fraser Hollins (Bass), Bill Mahar (Trumpet & Cornet) and Kenny Bibace (Guitar) in 2003.

Since the release of Mandala (Effendi Records) in 2004, the ensemble has received praise from audiences and critics across Canada, the United States and France. Highlights include winning an Opus Award (Quebec Arts) for "Concert of the Year". In 2006 Mandala performed one of their most spirited and memorable concerts at the Montreal International Jazz Festival with special guests Effusion, a 21-piece gospel choir. Recently the group traveled to France and Belgium where they introduced their music to new audiences, and received accolades and raves from the media.

Joel Miller was born in Sackville, New Brunswick and picked up the saxophone at age 10. He moved to Montreal in 1988, graduating from McGill University's jazz program. He later studied with jazz luminaries Dewey Redman, Kenny Wheeler, Chucho Valdés and Pat Labarbera. His first recording, 1996’s Find a Way (Page Music), prompted Globe and Mail critic Mark Miller to write: "His solos are supremely melodic…think of Stan Getz, or of John Coltrane at his most wistful... a terrific debut CD." Joel Miller subsequently won the “Grand Jazz Award” at the 1997 Montreal International Jazz Festival. Miller's discography includes Playgrounds (1998, Justin-Time Records), ... and then everything started to look different ... (2000, Effendi Records).

Throughout his career, Miller has collaborated with a wide range of artists including Ingrid Jensen, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ben Monder, Brad Turner, and Steve Amirault. Known as a lyrical and sensitive player, he is a favourite of top-flight jazz vocalists, and has toured with Denzal Sinclaire, Michael Buble and John Labelle. Joel’s long running collaboration with Latin-Jazz artist Joé Armando has led to appearances alongside Tito Puente, Ray Baretto, Yuli Bonaventura and Cuban Son master, Eliades Ochoa. Joel recently played with virtuoso Latin-jazz bassist Oscar Stagnaro and Mozambique musician Zé Maria.

Collaborative projects that Miller has participated in include A.S.A.P (Christine Jensen, Miles Perkin, Thom Gossage), Montreal Saxophone Quartet (Chet Doxas, Remi Bolduc and Eric Hove), Sky Beneath My Feet (Nate Miller, Tommy Babin) Follow Follow (Rainer Wiens, Jean Derome), and The Motion Ensemble (Andrew Miller, Darcy Gray, Nadia Francavilla).

Along with winning the Opus award in 2005, Miller¹s fourth album, Mandala, made the highly regarded All About Jazz “Publisher Picks” and was also chosen by La Presse critic Alain Brunet as one of the top five jazz albums of the year. Joel Miller was also nominated for the ADISQ Awards (Jazz Album of the Year), National Jazz Awards (Best Acoustic Group) and the Canadian Independent Music Awards (Jazz Group of the Year).

In October 2006 Miller collaborated with Danish guitarist Torben Waldorff, Peter Nilsson on drums and bassist Mattias Welin, while touring Sweden and Denmark.

2006 Joel Miller Mandala, Opus Award
Concert of the year (L’Off Festival July 2nd, 2005)
2005 Joel Miller Mandala, All About Jazz 2005 Publisher Picks
2005 Joel Miller Mandala, "Best of 2005" La Presse (Alain Brunet)
2005 Joel Miller Mandala, National Jazz Awards nomination
2005 Joel Miller Mandala, ADISC nomination
(Quebec Music Awards)
2005 Joel Miller, CMW (Canadian Music Week) Indie Awards, Jazz Group of the year nomination, Toronto, ON
2003 Joel Miller …and then everything started to look different…, East Coast Music Awards Nomination
2003 Joel Miller …and then everything started to look different…, Opus Award Nomination
1997 Joel Miller Quintet, duMaurier Grand Jazz Award,
Montreal International Festival