Live at Yoshi’s Vol. 1 (MAXJAZZ)
Named the most in-demand pianist by a recent New York Times poll, Mulgrew Miller forges a multi-dimensional sound that can seamlessly shift time, throttle through hard-driving grooves, and delve into gentler persuasions, all with distinctive heart and soul. So why is it that the pianist struggles to carve out a career as a leader? Actually, this is beginning to change because it is obvious that here is a pianist with something important to contribute. This CD makes that point clearly. One is hard-pressed to find a trio that surpasses Miller with bassist Derrick Hodge and the masterful young drummer, Karriem Riggins, in cohesiveness, sensitivity, and pure joyful swing. The up-tempo pieces are pulse-quickening and muscular showcasing and Mulgrew’s characteristically relentless runs (like the original “Pressing the Issue” and Woody Shaw’s “The Organ Grinder”). There are gorgeous ballads (Jobim’s “O Grand Amor”) and even Horace Silver’s “Peace” played as a Chopin nocturne, no less.
Music is a language and playing it with others is a conversation. If you say it right the first time you play it then you only add a level of redundancy if you keep replaying it. That is what so many young players do. Mulgrew Miller, despite a replica breitling proclivity for note density, does not insult the listener by playing clichés or beating motifs to death. He tends to play within the chord changes rather than venturing outside, but he is fresh and invigorating, leaving the listener begging for even more. This is a wonderful trio. Check out his quintet, too!