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"Band Q&A: 21-year old sax player has impressive resume"

Fort Myers native Chris Miller may be only 21 and a junior at UNF in Jacksonville, but this sax player has already managed to accrue some impressive credits to his résumé.

AUDIO: Listen to some of Chris Miller's music on his page
The second-generation native Southwest Floridian has not only played sax with a healthy handful of popular local bands both here and in Central Florida, but he frequently shares a stage with renowned banjo player/singer Rev. Jeff Mosier (formerly of Col. Bruce Hampton’s Aquarium Rescue Unit, Good Medicine) and Mosier’s latest band, Blueground Undergrass, on the Atlanta-based band’s frequent Florida appearances.

Miller took a moment away from his studies to talk about his music, the Reverend, and how he happened into a sax career.

Q: How long have you been playing sax, and how did you start?

A: I’ve been playing sax for almost 10 years now (started at age 11). I started taking private lessons just before sixth grade and went through the Lee County public schools at Cypress Lake Middle and Cypress Lake High School Center for the Arts. It was definitely my middle school band director, Mr. Chuck Flory, who really sparked my excitement for playing music. The public schools were great, and it’s really a shame to see the arts budgets down there being cut more and more every year. I also played some orchestral percussion in high school, and since being in college I’ve picked up some flute, clarinet, and piano.

Q: Who do you play with here and up in Jacksonville?

A: [In Fort Myers] mainly Keef Alfonzo and the Groove Revival; a funk/jam band (check them out for yourself that plays at the Orpheus Café (Fort Myers Beach) every few weeks. I sit in with them whenever I’m in town. I also play occasionally at Ellington’s on Sanibel Island.

Up here in Jacksonville, while I’m in school I play freelance jazz, and with a fusion/funk band called the Tuesday Night Squad (

Q: Why’d you choose sax?

A: It’s kind of funny — when I was in elementary school I knew I wanted to play either sax or drums. My parents had exposed me to all kinds of music, including jazz and rock, and my favorite band at the time was Dave Matthews Band. I ended up picking sax because I found out you don’t get to play drum set in the concert band at school (just percussion, i.e., cymbals/timpani). Little did I know that sax and drums were the two most popular choices of sixth-grade students; so had I not gotten a little bit of fundamentals under my belt before I came in, I probably would have ended up playing trombone or something.

Q: I’ve seen you “play in” with Blueground Undergrass. How did you hook up with them? Is there talk of your becoming a full-fledged band member?

A: When I first saw Blueground play, I really felt like I could relate to their music, like what I aspired to eventually be doing. A month or two later I was at the Suwannee SpringFest (in March ‘05), and there were torrential rains, causing the main amphitheater stage to flood and be closed, so all of the music was moved to a makeshift stage in a building.

One night, walking back to my campsite at about three a.m., I walked past the flooded amphitheater and saw there were some guys jamming on it, one of them being Rev. Jeff Mosier. I decided it might be an opportunity, so I sprinted to my campsite and grabbed my horn, came back, and just kind of jumped into what they were doing. Lucky for me they didn’t have security carry me away, and the Reverend actually told me to come and sit in anytime I wanted, so naturally I have taken him up on it with every possible opportunity I could. I’ve played with them somewhere between eight and 10 different shows now.

Q: The kinds of jams you do with them are very free-form. Do you prefer that kind of playing, or regular prerehearsed sets? And why?

A: Well, I basically come from a jazz background, which generally has a mixture of both, or a loose kind of form with improvising in the middle. So I feel pretty comfortable with that. Blueground also has a pretty interesting mixture because bluegrass tends to have a very rigid format with solos that are a predetermined length, etc. But they also mix jams that are about as free as you can get. So I guess my answer is that I prefer free-form, but almost all music has at least some amount of structure to it, so a mixture is good.

Q: What band would it be your life’s dream to play in with, and why?

A: I guess as of right now my life’s dream would be to play with mandolinist Chris Thile (of Nickel Creek). He is in my opinion one of the most ingenious musicians of our generation, on any instrument, in any genre. I would just love to get inside his head. A close second would be the Derek Trucks Band.

Q: What’s your plan after college?

A: Afterwards I plan to audition for graduate schools in New York and Chicago and basically go wherever the music takes me.

To hear some of Chris’s music, or find out about where he’s playing in with other bands, check out his MySpace page: He plans to take the stage, Feb. 17, with Blueground Undergrass at their Jacksonville concert at the Freebird Live. - Tiffany Yates - Marco Eagle Feb 8 2007

"Dialogue with words: Tuesday Night Squad members communicate through jazz"

Dialogue with words

Tuesday Night Squad members communicate through jazz

Compass Correspondent
Publication Date: 07/18/08
While jazz music is considered to be a conversation between musicians, Tuesday Night Squad (TNS) elevates this concept to a new level. The sextet of 20-somethings converse in a variety of genres -- jazz, funk, reggae, Latin, rock and bluegrass -- creating dialogue without the use of words.

"I really believe that any kind of music can be portrayed well instrumentally," saxophonist Chris Miller said. "There's a lot of ground to be covered."

Started in 2006, by guitarist Ivan Skenes, the premise of TNS was to start (and remain) a purely instrumental band. With multiple line-up changes, the band is currently Skenes, Miller, Angel Garcia (organ/rhodes/synth), Jake O'Connor (bass), Milan Algood (drums) and Dan Johnson (percussion/vibraphone). Most of the members have either graduated from or are currently attending the University of North Florida's music program. And most were friends before joining TNS adding to the band's chemistry.

A chemistry that they find is compounded with, uniquely, less practice. Skenes said, "Sometimes if we haven't played or practiced in a while, sometimes it's the best gig we have because we missed each other. Then we just have this chemistry and start doing all kinds of improvisation high peaks and intense jams."

A chemistry that TNS has worked to refine at gigs all over North Florida from Freebird Live (where they recorded a full-length live album) in Jacksonville Beach to Caf 11 in St. Augustine, the guys have opened for some big names like Toubab Krewe and George Clinton. This year will also mark their second performance at MagnoliaFest.

While most listeners are used to having a vocalist tell them a story, the guys of TNS have no plans to add a singer. Miller, who plays the vocal part on his saxophone, said, "Whenever there's a vocalist in the music, the songs have a certain kind of strictness to them. When it's purely instrumental, anything can go anywhere at anytime." For this sextet, the story is told through a multifarious collection of instruments from strings to horns to percussion.

TNS also doesn't rely on flashy outfits or an in-your-face stage presence.

"I mean I'm all about being rock stars and putting on a show, but we're not jumping around and doing anything ridiculous or gimmicky. Hopefully the music speaks for itself," Miller said. Skenes, who conceptualizes most of their original material, added, "We're kind of a band of slackers. Not slackers in a good way we're all just really laid back."

Additional information can be found at

On stage

TNS performs downtown at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 24 during the Concerts in the Plaza, between King Street and Cathedral Place

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© The St. Augustine Record

- St. Augustine Record By Kara Pound 7/18/08


5 Song Studio EP
Live at the Freebird 12-08-07



TNS plays an eclectic fusion of funk, jazz, postrock, world music, and whatever else works its way in. There is absolutely no limitation to their influences with an end result being one of the most varied repetoirs on the scene today. The band has been influenced by bands such as such as the Greyboy Allstars (Karl Denson), Tortoise, the Meters, Herbie Hancock, Explosions in the Sky, The Philidelphia Experiment, and Medeski, Martin & Wood. But their influeces draw from every far reaching genre imaginable. "I was brought up on the Dead," says Saxophonist Chris Miller, "but now I can get off on anything for traditional bluegrass like Del and the Boys to avant garde jazz like Ornette Coleman. I feel like everything I listen to brings a lot to my sound and into the band's sound." You might recognize Chris from sitting in with bands such as The Codetalkers, Blueground Undergrass, or Donna the Buffalo, among others.

Although the TNS has only been together for about two years, word is spreading quick about their unique sound. Headlining at major Florida venues like the Freebird Live in Jacksonville Beach and the brand new 2,500 seat St. Augustine Ampitheatre, and opening for bands like George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, the Rebirth Brass band, and Oteil and the Peacemakers, the Codetalkers, and Toubab Krewe, momentum is building fast. The band has been building up a consitent following around Florida including Jacksonville, Gainesville, Tampa, and Miami. Recently TNS played at the prestigious Magnoliafest 2007! You may recognize guitarist Ivan Skenes from the Southern rock band Inca Maya, who has performed at Down on the Farm, Tallyrand, Magfest, and will be playing Wanee 08. Saxophonist Chris Miller has toured extensively with Bobby Lee Rodgers and the Codetalkers, and has shared the stage with such national acts as Blueground Undergrass, Donna the Buffalo, and the Lee Boys. With a brand new studio album in the works, theres nowhere to go from here but up.