Mulgrew Trio
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Mulgrew Miller Trio
Live at Yoshi's Volume One
MaxJazz

By Mike Shanley

After some choice solos and trades of fours, when Mulgrew Miller's trio returns to the theme on the album-opener "If I Were a Bell," they sound like they're getting ready to wrap up the song-but change their minds midstream. Over Derrick Hodge's bright walking bass lines and Karriem Riggins' forceful drumming, pianist Miller goes back for a second helping and adds to what was already an extremely creative set of choruses.

The energy the trio cooks up on "Bell" carries through the rest of the set, which was recorded last July over two nights at the Oakland, California club Yoshi's. Even when the pace slows down midway through the album with three ballads in a row, the music never drags. Miller throws some fleet runs and arpeggio riffs into the gentle and somewhat timely Horace Silver tune "Peace." Among his impressive turns in "Don't You Know I Care" is a rapid descent down the keyboard that sounds like the spirit of Art Tatum possessed him. Following these tunes, "What a Difference a Day Makes" features some slightly funky, gospel-type voicings and an arco solo by Hodge that continues the feeling with some great slides down the neck. Miller has previously recorded "Waltz for Monk," penned by his Contemporary Piano Ensemble bandmate Donald Brown. Other than a few Monkian clusters in the theme, the piece salutes the pianist more than evokes him, but this performance nonetheless finds Miller building in energy as he proceeds.

The token Miller composition-"Press-ing the Issue"-closes the album on a fast note with the group collectively pushing each other to a frenzy. Like "Bell," it sounds like they don't want to stop, locking into an exciting vamp in the closing minutes.

Bring on Volume Two.
- Jazz Times


Discography

* 1985: Keys to the City (Landmark Records)
* 1986: Work (Landmark)
* 1987: Wingspan (32 Jazz)
* 1988: The Countdown (Landmark)
* 1990: From Day to Day (Landmark)
* 1991: Time and Again (Landmark)
* 1992: Landmarks (Landmark)
* 1992: Hand In Hand (Novus Records)
* 1993: With Our Own Eyes (Novus)
* 1995: Getting to Know You (Novus)
* 2002: The Sequel Maximum Jazz
* 2004: Live At Yoshi's, Vol. 1 Max Jazz
* 2005: Live at Yoshi's, Vol. 2 Max Jazz
* 2006: Live at the Kennedy Center Maxjazz
* 2007: Live at the Kennedy Center: Vol. 2 Maxjazz

Photos

Bio

Mulgrew Miller Biography:

Born 1955 in Greenwood, Mississippi, Mulgrew Miller played country, gospel, R&B for dance bands, and the blues, until he saw the Oscar Peterson Trio perform on television at age 15. Although he also studied classical piano and formed a trio while in high school, Miller immediately dedicated himself to becoming a jazz musician.

Said Miller in an interview with All About Jazz, "When I saw him [Peterson], I realized there was a way to do something with music -- and do it with integrity and in a way that demanded virtuosity but wasn't classically oriented."

Pivotal to Miller's transition to jazz was his studies at Memphis State University with Donald Brown and James Williams, pianists who would later work with him in the late 80s-early 90s as part of the Contemporary Piano Ensemble (along with a very young Geoff Keezer and Harold Mabern), dedicated to the music of Memphis' native son Phineas Newborn.

"So that's where I really began to seriously learn jazz," said Miller.

One of Miller's earliest jobs was as pianist for the Mercer Ellington Orchestra. Then Cedar Walton introduced Miller to Betty Carter, and he moved to New York, spending the next 8 months with the great vocalist/educator. Following his tenure with Carter, Miller performed with Woody Shaw, Johnny Griffin, Art Blakey, and 7 years with Tony Williams.

Miller was also a frequent collaborator with Joe Lovano in the late 80s, turning his priorities to his own trio and other ensembles in the 90s while still performing or recording with such artists as Diane Reeves, Rene Marie, Steve Turre, Kenny Garrett, Joe Lovano, and Gary Burton. He also collaborated with the late Niels Henning Orstad Pedersen on a recording and series of performances in tribute to the great piano/bass duos of Ellington and Blanton. Over the years Miller has worked nearly 400 recordings and moves easily from jazz standards to Brazilian to bebop to his own compositions.

Miller's recent focus has been on the quintet Wingspan, and his current trio, which consists of bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Karriem Riggins.

"I don't only think of the piano as a piano," said Miller. "I think of it as an orchestra, other times as a voice, and yet at other times a horn. Pianists have a challenge of making the instrument do something that it doesn't want to do. It doesn't want to scream, or bend notes, or exclaim something very emotionally. You have to reach deep inside of yourself to get the piano to express these things," he reflected.

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Ivan Taylor Biography:

Growing up in Chicago, 21 year old Ivan Taylor started playing the bass at age 9.

Raised in a family of musicians, Taylor had the opportunity while in high school to perform with Orbert Davis, Von Freeman and many others. A local celebrity in his hometown, he was featured on Fox News as an upcoming artist, and participated in a Grammy telecast as a member of an all star high school jazz band.

In 2003, he was selected to partake in the Vail Jazz Foundation’s Vail Jazz Workshop Scholarship, of which an elite group of high school musicians were selected from the United States and Canada. As a member of the Thorton High School Jazz Band, Taylor performed at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall where he led the rhythm section on bass. As a participant in the Essentially Ellington contest, Taylor met Wynton Marsalis, which led him to New York City.

Since then, Taylor has studied at The Juilliard School with Ben Wolfe and performed with the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra. Currently, he is a student of Ron Carter, and performs with various musicians around the country. He performs with the Rashied Ali Quintet and Mulgrew Miller Trio/Wingspan. Taylor has also played with Louis Hayes, Curtis Fuller and Jazz titan, Hank Jones.

"My career ambition is to be able to perform on a professional level and to be able to teach what others have taught me," said Taylor.

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Rodney Green Biography:

Born in Camden, New Jersey, drummer Rodney Green was musically raised by Philadelphia's jazz elders, including Mickey Roker, Shirley Scott, Bootsie Barnes and Edgar Bateman. He was also influenced by numerous players who were just a few years his senior, such as Orrin Evans, Dwayne Eubanks, and Jafar Barron.

Green took just two lessons apiece with Byron Landham and Ralph Peterson, Jr., and never enrolled in a music school, receiving the bulk of his training on the bandstand. "My musical education was in Philadelphia," he noted. "At the Blue Moon, at Dietrich's, at Zanzibar Blue, at Chris' Café, at Ortlieb's."

In the summer of 1997, Green received a call from alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, who needed an emergency replacement for a JVC Jazz Festival concert in New York. . "I was introduced as this 18-year-old drummer from Philly," Green recalls. "I got presented really well."

A few months later, Green, who had been working regularly with altoist Bobby W