LOCAL LIVE! In Denver, About Denver, Musically Denver!!!!
Mulgrew Miller - June 19, 2008 - Dazzle
In a rare Denver appearance last Thursday, pianist Mulgrew Miller and his trio showed what sophisticated jazz is all about. Using a program of all jazz standards as a launching pad, the band swung through an evening of adult entertainment. No, wait a minute, not that kind. Miller plays elegant, grownup music that’s tasteful, melodic and rhythmic.
Mulgrew Miller is an in demand pianist having played on over 400 recordings as both a side man and a leader. He’s played with most of the jazz greats at one time or another. Given his busy schedule, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t get to Denver very often, so his recent performance here was an extra treat. He brought along a rhythm section about half his age in Ivan Taylor on bass and Ulysses Owen on drums. Although of a different generation, they were perfectly compatible with their employer. It’s always a good indication that the band is laying down an effective groove when most of the heads in the audience bob in unison. That happened regularly.
An early influence on Miller was Oscar Peterson. Indeed, as I listened to him throughout the evening, it seemed that his style is somewhat of a cross between Peterson and McCoy Tyner with his combination of lyricism and rhythm. Of course he can put the hammer down and break the speed limit by a considerable margin when he wants to, but he more often prefers to focus on the melody. Although he grew up playing a fair amount of blues and R&B, he incorporates strict bluesy flourishes only occasionally. However, that scarcity simply makes their appearance all the more delightful and dramatic.
Dazzle is not only a great place to listen to jazz, but they also have a killer kitchen. So the combination of great food and great music is hard to beat. The downside to that combo announced itself at the end of “Skylark.” That’s a beautiful, poignant ballad, which, in the hands of this trio was especially evocative. At the end, the rhythm section laid out leaving Miller to quietly wring as much emotion out of grand piano as it’s possible for a human to do. The audience was hushed, enraptured. Right in the middle of all that emoting, I moved my hand, hit the handle of a spoon dangling over the edge of the table causing it to bounce around the crème brulee bowl and onto the saucer with a loud CLANKITY CLANK, CLANK, CLUNK. Look, that mood was going to broken sooner or later anyway. No need to thank me.
First Set List:
A Sleeping Bee
You and the Night and the Music
Oh Grande Amour
Woody ‘n You
Mulgrew Miller, piano
Ivan Taylor, bass
Ulysses Owen, drums