Mulgrew Miller, a talented McCoy Tyner-influenced pianist, leads an all-star septet on much of this date. The main stars, however, are Miller's nine diverse originals which range from modal to Monkish. With tenor-saxophonist Joe Henderson appearing on five selections, trumpeter Eddie Henderson on six and altoist Kenny Garrett heard throughout the full CD, Miller has a perfect frontline to interpret his tricky but logical originals.
Pianist Mulgrew Miller's debut as a leader found his McCoy Tyner-inspired modal style already fully formed. At the time, he was a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and was starting to become well-known in the jazz world. Teamed with bassist Ira Coleman and drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith, Miller performs four originals, Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge," "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye," "Milestones" and an unaccompanied rendition of Duke Ellington's "Warm Valley."
Mulgrew Miller's fourth Landmark release is a particularly strong all-star date, teaming the pianist with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson (who sits out on two of the seven numbers), bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams. Other than a surprisingly effective "What the World Needs Now Is Love," the repertoire is comprised of originals by Miller (four) and one apiece from Williams and Henderson ("Tetragon"). A high-quality advanced hard bop set.
The Sequel has a threefold meaning for pianist Mulgrew Miller and his listeners. First, it reunites him with Wingspan, the reputable quintet he formed in 1987; second, it ends his self-imposed seven-year hiatus as a bandleader; and third, it is his debut for the Max Jazz recording label. This highly enjoyable recording features ten great jazz songs in their pure form on which members of the ensemble excel. Wingspan is comprised of Steve Nelson, Steve Wilson, Duane Eubanks, Richie Goods, and Karriem Riggins, all of whom have established themselves in the jazz idiom as remarkable leaders and sidemen in their own right.
Everything falls into place very nicely on this initial volume from Mulgrew Miller's two-day gig at Yoshi's in the summer of 2003. With the strong support of bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Karriem Riggins, Miller's volcanic virtuosity on the piano is simply stunning. Taking no prisoners with his hard bop dash through the standard "If I Were a Bell," Miller immediately afterward soothes the crowd with Donald Brown's lovely, but only occasionally dissonant, tribute "Waltz for Monk," which might sound to many listeners like more of a salute to Oscar Peterson.
In Memoriam. RIP Brother Miller… The emphasis on this quintet album is on Mulgrew Miller's compositions; five of the seven numbers (all but Kenny Garrett's "Sonhos Do Brasil" and the standard "I Remember You") are by the pianist/leader. Miller is joined by bassist Charnett Moffett, drummer Tony Reedus, vibraphonist Steve Nelson and altoist Garrett (who plays flute on one song); percussionist Rudy Bird guests on three numbers. The inventive solos on the fairly complex material and the attractive sound of the ensembles make this a worthy release.
If you want to hear modern mainstream at it's finest, check out this Mulgrew Miller "Solo" piano CD. It's a clear representation of a seasoned artist at his powerful musical peak.