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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 10, No. 2

Joel Miller: Getting Down to the Essential

by Lenore Alford / October 4, 2004

Channeling music from a place "whose essence we do not know" is an ambitious idea, even an extraordinary one -- and that is the philosophy behind saxophonist Joel Miller's latest recording on the Effendi label, his fourth album to date. Its title, "Mandala", refers both to Jungian psychology and Eastern mysticism, a striking hybrid that is also indicative of the eclectic mix of styles and collaborators that so enriches Miller's work. And the essence of that work? "I found myself coming up with short, folk-like melodies in major keys," he says of the material for this album. Indeed, the themes are pithy, succinct, child-like -- as well they might be, as if channelled from that certain "place". Their freshness and direct quality are also due in part to a change in Miller's compositional modus operandi: instead of using the piano as 'middleman', musical ideas now go straight from his horn into a dictaphone, an innovation he found significant in helping him bring about the album's underlying concept.

A noteworthy collaborator on "Mandala" is Kurt Rosenwinkel, the one-time New York-based guitarist now living in Zurich. "I had been listening to Kurt's albums for years," Miller recounts, "and was already influenced by some of his ideas, so playing together made for a good match of styles. In fact, we approach things from a 'less talk more music' angle." And it works well, too: the musical conversations they engage in reveal distinct personalities and a wealth of ideas that are complementary, yet never derivative. Of the remaining musicians on this date, drummer Thom Gossage also makes his mark. "Thom is a composer as well, and we would get together just to experiment and workshop ideas," Miller explains. It was largely from those sessions, which also included bass player Fraser Hollins, that the sound of Miller's new material took shape. "The album is a good representation of how I wanted the music to come off," Miller observes -- and it is a representation because he wrote more compositions in the same vein but had to choose between them in order to avoid repetition of ideas on the recording.

At this writing, both "Mandala" and musics related to it remain Joel Miller's prime focus. "I would really like to perform more, tour and basically promote the album, since we (the group) haven't had too much time to do all of that. And we still need to grow as a group." Since the October 2003 recording session, New-York guitarist Ben Monder has now stepped in for Rosenwinkel. Beyond that, Miller would like to re-activate some of his other projects he has put on hold in the last few years, most notably his "Playground Orchestra" whose last stage appearance was at Montreal's summer jazz festival in 2001. Based on the strengths of his new album, one thing is for sure: Joel Miller's musical pursuits are as varied as they are far reaching, even a tad esoteric, so as to make us look forward to his next endeavours.

Jazz Plus | jazz@scena.org

  • N.B. : Tous les téléphones sont dans l'indicatif régional 514. All phone numbers are in the 514 area code.
  • Jazz à l'année longue, organisé par le Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
  • 2 : Dave Holland Quintet
  • (Théâtre Outremont, 1240, Bernard O. 495-9944)

Les jeudis Jazz

  • 20 h Café Théâtre de la Place des Arts (Métro Place-des-Arts) Infos: 812-5293
  • 14 : Jean Vanasse Sextette – Concert et lancement du disque « Les Amérikois » sur étiquette Effendi
  • 21 : Trio Jean Derome, Normand Guilbeault, Pierre Tanguay
  • 28 : François Marcaurelle – Concert et lancement du disque « Opus 6 Mode d'Emploi » sur étiquette Effendi
  • N.B.: Cette série se poursuivra à tous les jeudis jusqu'au 9 décembre, inclusivement.

Série Jazz du jeudi soir / Maison de Culture Ahuntsic-Cartierville

  • 20 h. 10 300, Lajeunesse (Métro Henri-Bourassa) Infos et laissez-passer : 872-8749
  • 7 : Trio Guy Doris (au banjo)
  • 14 : Bathyscaphe (Quintette du trompettiste Ivanhoe Jolicœur)
  • 21 : Karl Roth (violoniste et chanteur d'Edmonton. Quelque part entre Dr. John et Stéphane Grappelli)
  • 28 : Orchestre des Pas Perdus (Quintette sous la direction du tromboniste Claude St-Jean)
  • Concerts commentées de nouvelles tendances en musiques créatives contemporaines.
  • Maison de Culture Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, 20 h / 3755, rue Botrel (Métro Snowdon)
  • Infos et laissez-passer : 872-2157
  • 9 : Iks
  • 30 : Quintette du saxo ténor Sean Craig
  • Note : Il y aura également des prestations en musique contemporaine, électroacoustique et multimédia les autres samedis du mois.

Série Silence on Jazz / Maison de la Culture Frontenac

  • 20 h et 22 h, 2500, rue Ontario Est (Métro Frontenac) Programmation complète et laissez-passer:
  • 872-7882
  • Du 14 au 23
  • (Quelques faits saillants :)
  • 14 : Alain Caron 5 (20 h) / Chet Doxas Quartet (22 h)
  • 17 : Roberto Occhipinti (de Toronto) (20 h) / Herskovitz – Rozenblatt Project (22 h)
  • 20 : Don Thompson et Phil Dwyer (20 h) / Mike Murley Trio + Guido Basso (22 h)
  • 22 : Clarinet Momento (Yvan Belleau + André Moisan) (20 h) / Trio Choc (Sylvain Provost) (22 h)
  • 23 : Guy Nadon en quintette (20 h) et en Big Band (22)

Évolutions 2004 – Le Quatuor / Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur

  • 22 h, 100, rue Sherbrooke Est / Infos et laissez-passer : 872-5338
  • 8 : Concert avec le François Richard Jazz Quartet
  • Cette série, principalement dévolue à la musique contemporaine, se déroulera du mercredi 6 au dimanche le 10.

Casa Obscura, 4381, rue Papineau, 20 h 30

  • (Contribution volontaire) Infos : 527-0592
  • Cartes blanches à Lori Freedman, Jean Derome et Joane Hétu (du 6 octobre au 8 décembre avec relâches les 20 et 27 octobre) Horaire non fixé à la date de tombée de cette recension.
  • 23 : Quartette du guitariste Ken Aldcroft (de Toronto) avec Lori Freedman comme invitée.

Ensemble SuperMusique

  • Sala Rossa, 4848, boul. St-Laurent /Infos : 521-7636
  • 20 : Lancement de la saison de concerts 2004-2005 avec présentation du disque de l'Ensemble SuperMusique. Concert de musiques improvisées avec formations à géométrie variable.

Comme toujours, on vous invite à consulter le site SortiesJazzNights pour un calendrier hebdomadaire détaillé des activités à Montréal et dans la région environnante. Les personnes intéressées sont priées de noter qu'il est possible de s'abonner gratuitement à sa liste courriel (voir adresse ci-dessous).

After the customary mid-summer lull of musical activities, everything starts to pick up again after the Labour Day weekend break. While it's back to business in September, it still takes the month to get everything in to full gear again, at least on the jazz front. But why wait? Get back into the swing of things now.

Take a look at the SortiesJazzNights website (see address below) for detailed listings of shows in Montreal and its outlying areas.

And if you aren't on its free e-mail list already, then sign up and receive detailed weekly mailings of what's going on in town.

Concert presenters and promoters please take note: Presenting or promoting a jazz or improv music show? We invite you to pass along any information to jazz@scena.org. Due to space limitations, we cannot guarantee inclusion of all listings within this column. Deadline: the 15th of the month prior to the month of publication.

(c) La Scena Musicale