“ Gary is long overdue to be
properly recorded and especially doing the tunes of his long time
compatriot, Ron Miller. These are intricate and well thought out
compositions played impeccably and with inspiration by Gary and the
stellar group he assembled. You will enjoy this artistic recording.
Ron Miller, 1999
Blues For An Old New Age
Babes Of Cancun
JC On The Land
Gary Keller’s Liner Notes:
For this record project, my first as a leader, I have chosen to feature the music of my close friend and musical colleague of twenty-five years, Ron Miller. It has long been a desire of mine to hear a collection Ron’s compositions recorded by some of today’s preeminent jazz musicians. Likewise, this has been an opportunity to test myself in such a setting, working with original music I know well and for which I have a deep respect.
Ron Miller has devoted his musical career to jazz composition. Whereas most jazz musicians are performers who also compose, Ron (a wonderfully inventive pianist) views himself primarily as a composer. His knowledge and love of all types of music is largely from a composer’s perspective and his compositions reflect his deep understanding of the history and growth of jazz composition.
To call Ron’s music deeply rooted in the past, yet unique and original, is cliche, but true. The influences of Horace Silver, Charles Mingus, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, and Herbie Hancock are strong. Of course the music swings, but it is the lyrical melodies, the wide ranging harmonic textures, and the clearly conceived emotional contours that set Ron’s compositions apart. Perhaps the best term for Ron’s writing is “jazz romanticism,” for his love of romantically oriented classical composers such as Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Respighi, and Prokofiev is also clearly reflected in his music.
Considering the strength of his work, Ron is also relatively unknown. Former students such as Pat Metheny, Dan Gottlieb, Mark Egan, Rick Margitza, and Gil Goldstein are long time supporters, as is Ron’s close friend Jerry Coker. A few musicians from outside the University of Miami alumni community also have recorded several of his tunes, most recently Hal Galper and Barry Ries. For the most part, however, Ron’s library of almost one hundred works is largely undocumented on commercially available recordings. This is, in fact, the first such volume devoted entirely to his compositions. Hopefully this project will bring Ron’s music to broader attention and stimulate more artists to investigate this wonderful repertoire.
A brief background on this recording: Kenny Werner and I have been acquainted since we played together during one of his Miami visits, and I knew his eclectic, adventurous style would work well with this music. Kenny suggested Billy Hart and Drew Gress, as well as Mike Brorby’s studio in Brooklyn. When I decided to add other horns I asked Scott Wendholt, who is gaining recognition as one of New York’s finest jazz trumpeters, and John Fedchock, an old friend from the Woody Herman band who now has a reputation as one of the top trombonists in jazz.
The reputations of these fine musicians are well deserved. In particular, the trio of Kenny, Billy and Drew is something to behold. They demonstrate an extraordinary degree of depth and understanding in capturing the stylistic essence of each tune, coupled with a level of flexibility, creativity and interaction which makes each interpretation sound like the definitive version.
Kenny’s amazingly wide range of expression is very much in evidence here; be it the impressionistic colorings of J.C. On the Land , the lyric simplicity of Peacock Park , or the straight ahead burn of Last Illusion . Billy invariably finds a unique way of making each tune his own, always making his presence felt in a way that enhances the character of the composition. Few drummers have the combination of such a marvelous beat and the ability to provide color and shape to open space. Drew anchors the rhythm section with his beautiful sound and solid, stay-at-home pulse; also providing gracefully melodic solos on the two ballads as well as on Ron’s “new bop” reworking of Giant Steps, Small Feats. Scott’s exceptional tone and wonderful sense of phrasing are particularly evident on Soul Bod, and John plays a perfectly crafted be-bop solo over the oddly grouped phrases of Monk Strut..
Everything heard on this recording was done as a group in the studio. There was no layering of parts or overdubbed solos, and only minimal editing. Very little was discussed, and, as it should be, everyone had carte blanche to put their personal stamp on each tune. As usual with jazz recordings most of the selections ended up being first takes, and only two pieces required more than two takes to get what I was looking for (mostly in my own playing). This is typical when working with such high caliber players, but nonetheless amazing considering the complex, diverse nature of the music and the fact that it was being played by this group for the first time. Everyone came ready to play, and the result speaks for itself. My only regret is that, due lack of space and the necessity of having to choose between tunes and takes, I could not include even more great work by these fine musicians.
Gary Keller Feb. '99
A special thank you to the following people who provided both spiritual and logistical support for this project:
Jamey D. and Julia Aebersold and Double Time Records, Michael Brorby, Jay Bianchi, Pilley, Rick Margitza, Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, Craig Bailey, Mike Gerber, Gottfried Stoger, Andrew Sterman, Jerry Coker, Whit Sidener and the University of Miami jazz faculty.
I would also like to
thank my wife, Linda; Michael Brecker, Joe Henderson, Francois Louis,
Ralph Morgan, Bobby Dukoff, Bill Singer, Ed Calle, Billy Ross, Gary
Campbell, Mike Brignola, Bob Mover, Pat LaBarbera, the late John Sedola,
Lawrence Wyman, my students, and all the great musicians (past and
present, famous and otherwise) who have aided and inspired me over the
years; the list is far too long to print here.
A very special thank you to
Ron Miller for the many years of music and friendship; and to Kenny,
Billy, Drew, Scott, and John for their talent and