Mulgrew Miller

Andy's Jazz Club, Chicago,IL
June 12, 2008

Mulgrew Miller Trio
Mulgrew Miller Trio
Ivan Taylor
Ivan Taylor

Story and Photos by James Walker

What a pleasure it was for this writer to listen to virtuoso pianist Mulgrew Miller at Andy's monthly "Spotlight Performer" Series. Miller, along with sideman bassist Ivan Taylor and drummer Rodney Green, graced the stage on June 12, 2008, captivating the attentive audience assembled. The set began with both Green and Taylor playing extended solos. It became quite apparent early on that this was a very cohesive group that was accompanying Mulgrew this evening.

"My Favorite Things" was their second selection with Miller soloing from the top with a variety of chord changes. Drummer Green softly slid the brushes across the drum kit as Miller continued to burn on this piece like an artist painting a picture. This was truly a master at work and he had the attention of every patron present. This writer has been present in this renovated room when the audience was more involved in personal conversation than the music at hand. This was not the case from Miller's opening note to the climactic finish.

These gentlemen were on "autopilot" as drummer Green demonstrated smooth, rapid fire action on Theloniuos Monk's "Monk's Dream." Throughout the number and the entire evening, Miller would sit back and allow both his young colleagues space to stretch on extended solos.

Miller makes piano playing look so easy as he glides his fingers across the entire length of the piano. He never seems to be exerting energy, yet the sound that he produces is remarkable. Such was the case when he played Rogers and Hart's "It Never Entered My Mind." This was just good old-fashioned piano playing.

Mulgrew, being a self-appointed ambassador of Jazz, quipped about wanting to perform on the Oprah Show to highlight this great American Art Form. He indicated that whenever he’s in Chicago, he’ll continue to make this pitch.

They concluded this wonderful set with Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon." On this number, Miller spared no keys as he rapidly fired across the 88s with fluidity. Drummer Green had a commanding solo on this piece that was full of ideas, and he played with a beautiful sound on the drums, which he demonstrated throughout his performance. Also, bassist Taylor (a Chicago native) combined uncanny speed and horn-like facility, while gaining energy and ideas. The audience gave its approval with a lot of "head nodding." Included in the audience were a couple of Chicago pianists, Roger Harris and Ryan Cohen. Both were honored to have an opportunity to witness this "Master" at work.

Andy’s next "Spotlight Series" will take place on July 18th and 19th as part of the JVC Jazz Festival-Chicago. Featured artist will be Chicago's own trumpeter, Corey Wilkes, with special guest, saxophonist Greg Osby. For detailed information about future Andy’s jazz sets, refer to their website at www.andysjazzclub.com.

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Contact James Walker, Jr. and JazzChicago.net

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