Pianist Millar Shows Promise At Pizza

 Millar

As the example of Artist Share amply demonstrates, crowdfunding initiatives apply as much to jazz artists as they do their peers in pop. At the end of this launch event for his debut album Unnatural Events, pianist-bandleader Tom Millar makes a point of acknowledging the Kickstarter campaign that partly enabled the recording to happen, and it feels very much like a reality check for the music industry in an age of shrinking budgets and diminishing returns. On stage, the figures are in a better state.

Millar's quartet has the premium of musicianship and technical prowess that is increasingly commonplace among millennial college graduates. Indeed the Royal Academy alumnus has very able support in double-bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado, drummer Jon Scott and guitarist Alex Munk. Each has sufficient skill to handle the demands of compositions that have a structural complexity that is anything but pedestrian. Millar's writing is part of a lineage of polished modernism whose building blocks are to be found in the holy trinity of Herbie, Chick and Bill Evans, but whose additional masonry has pleasing echoes of their scions, namely Pat Metheny and Brian Blade. At its highpoint the performance reaches a poetic, pastoral grace, notably on 'Azura Days', a piece that is defined by a lengthy, spiraling theme, played in tight unison by Millar and Munk, that resolves in short, singing phrases that glide swishly over a steady latinesque rhythm enhanced by Scott's crisp, clicking rimshots.

A similar attention to detail marks songs such as 'The Seafarer', and 'Park Hill', yet for all these undeniable plus points there are moments when the music is found wanting in terms of internal dynamics and emotional charge. Impressive as he is, guitarist Munk is given too much solo space, often taking a high-flying lead that is a touch overwhelming. Millar, by contrast, doesn't expand some of his improvisations enough to really wring the most out of the material, and a sense of restraint, if not timidity, in some of his phrasing lessens the impact of pieces where the intent is high energy. 'Power Chord Thing' is a case in point. The title is transparent but the promise of a hard edge in the groove doesn't materialise, as if the players just won't let go, toughen up and rock out as their command of the beat suggests they can. It makes you wonder what they could achieve if they were spurred on by a more experienced player or producer with a pedigree who can challenge and stimulate his charges, be it a Jason Yarde or a Django Bates, Millar's former tutor.

Interestingly, the moment when that convincingly happens is the arrival of vocalist Alice Zawadzki on a very finely wrought adaptation of Gerard Manley-Hopkins' 'Inversaid'. The poet's thought-provoking ode to the environment, penned with much vivid descriptive energy following a visit to a Scottish loch, translates into a series of undulating melodies and darting counter-lines that have the urbane beauty of Corea's interplay with Flora Purim in the first iteration of Return to Forever. Yet amid all of the sophistication there is a robust rhythmic undercurrent that is more stirring than anything else heard throughout the whole evening. Millar's quartet is a band with an obvious potential as well as talent, but as is the case with a number of artists in the early stage of their careers there is a developmental path stretching out before them.

How, and with whom they proceed to negotiate it should be interesting to observe.

– Kevin Le Gendre
– Photo by Emma Perry

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Greg Fox and Pulverize The Sound punish …

  The second phase of Poland’s Jazz Jantar festival involved five nights...

Read More.....

Astral Progression Ensemble and Irrevers…

  Jazz Jantar has been running in the northern Polish port...

Read More.....

Tippett & Bourne, Liane Carroll and…

The Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival will return for its...

Read More.....

Jessica Radcliffe poised an poetic for R…

In this centenary year of the end of the First...

Read More.....

Iridescent Ibrahim Leads Multi-Horn Boon…

The Barbican's foyer is still resounding to the tumultuous multi-horned...

Read More.....

Maisha raise Afro-futurist spirits at Gh…

Scrolling down the posts on Facebook, from people pleading for...

Read More.....

John McLaughlin and 4th Dimension Back F…

Legendary jazz-rock guitarist John McLaughlin has just announced a return...

Read More.....

Dave Douglas Supergroup Dazzles Among Ho…

  Guimarães is Portugal’s birthplace. Surrounded by verdant hills, this quiet...

Read More.....

Bill Laurance Goes Big At Southbank With…

  At certain moments during this concert, Bill Laurance looks like...

Read More.....

Trans-Atlantic Team-Up: Chicago X London…

Much has been written about the jazz scene that has...

Read More.....

Dalston Devils: Branch and Brandon Lewis…

The Vortex and Cafe OTO are separated by a few...

Read More.....

Mike and Leni Stern light up Ronnie Scot…

What an unexpected pleasure to see Mike Stern exchanging guitar...

Read More.....

22-year-old saxophonist Xhosa Cole wins …

Saxophonist Xhosa Cole has been announced as the winner of...

Read More.....

Braxton and Marclay Broker New Sonic Exp…

  The UK premiere of Anthony Braxton's 'Composition No 103' (1983)...

Read More.....

Delay-gratification – Bill Frisell’s spe…

Bill Frisell isn't much of a talker. The music is...

Read More.....

Snarky Puppy, Jamie Cullum and Gladys Kn…

The first artists have been revealed for next year's Love...

Read More.....

Archie Shepp’s Art Songs & Spiritual…

This evening gets off to a flying start with Simon...

Read More.....

Gregory Porter, Joshua Redman, The Bad P…

The first names have been revealed for next year's Cheltenham...

Read More.....

Billy Harper charges up Church Of Sound

A house of praise is the perfect setting for one...

Read More.....

Ezra Collective Get Sweaty And Prophetic…

  "This is about joy and happiness and celebrating everything that's...

Read More.....

GoGo Penguin: Kings Of The Bill Take Fli…

  The Concorde usually hosts mid-ranking rock bands or popular club...

Read More.....

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio launch Moon Palace…

Fast emerging saxophonist Helena Kay is set to release her...

Read More.....

Ben LaMar Gay Breaks Back Of Chicagoan P…

A wet afternoon in the 'Big Smoke' is brightened by...

Read More.....

Shepp Sharp, Fiery and Free at Enjoy Fes…

The Enjoy Jazz festival is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary...

Read More.....

Baker On A Roll As Her Eden Project Pays…

  Lorraine Baker recorded one of the season's freshest sounding releases...

Read More.....

Freestage Stars Ready To Fire Up EFG Lon…

With the full programme confirmed for this year's EFG London...

Read More.....

Sons of Kemet: Kinetic and Chaotic at Ko…

There is already a sense of excitement in the air...

Read More.....

Henri Texier, Denys Baptiste, Ghost Note…

The 37th edition of what is a key date on...

Read More.....

Dave Holland's Aziza Up The Ante At Ronn…

The old joke that the audience will have a chance...

Read More.....

Art Ensemble and Mary Halvorson among th…

The English music critic Richard Williams finished his three-year stint...

Read More.....

A Melting Pot Of Sounds – Pelin Opcin ta…

Alyn Shipton spoke to Pelin Opcin, the EFG London Jazz...

Read More.....

Roy Hargrove – 16/10/69 – 2/11/18

Although several of his legendary predecessors met their maker while...

Read More.....

Victor Wooten puts the bass on top at Ro…

No one really noticed the quiet, contemplative figure who was...

Read More.....

Love Supreme Jazz Festival launches new …

With the first names still be announced for the 2019...

Read More.....

Alexander Hawkins heads up Emulsion Fest…

The seventh installment of the genre-busting Emulsion Festival is set...

Read More.....

Shirley Tetteh, Denys Baptiste and Ian S…

The winners of the 14th annual Parliamentary Jazz Awards took...

Read More.....


Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

Greg Fox and Pulverize The Sound punish outer limits at Poland's Jazz Jantar https://t.co/gJpxBkLliG @GDF_X… https://t.co/Uy99bKGPjp
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
@radiomidwich @EiderdownSounds Morton Feldman textures
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA