Friday, May 31, 2013

Mulgrew Miller, 1955-2013

The day after I learned that Mulgrew Miller had died, I shuffled into my museum of dead people to inspect my collection of the pianist's works. I uncovered a ticket stub for a 1994 concert at the Folly Theater titled "Four For Phineas."  

The four-piano tribute to Phineas Newborn, Jr., included Miller and some combination of James Williams, John Hicks, Harold Mabern, Geoff Keezer and Donald Brown.  (I want to say that Jay McShann was also in the mix as a special guest artist, but a cursory search doesn't provide any evidence of that fine concept.)

The stub indicates that I paid $17.50 to attend the Sunday afternoon show.  The relatively expensive ticket reflects the tenor of those times.  Miller was a heavily promoted artist signed to a major label.   The accepted wisdom was that he'd become a major star.  The idea seems hopelessly quaint today.  The ongoing marginalization of jazz began to accelerate in the mid-'90s.  The 1994 concert might have represented Miller's commercial- if not artistic- pinnacle.

Although I enjoy his recent work for MaxJazz, I find myself drawn to Miller's material for Landmark.  (That's Kenny Garrett on sax.) 

In today's harsh climate, I wonder what kind of career awaits aspiring tradition-minded jazz pianists.  Maybe the best a young artist in possession of a portion of Miller's bluesy earthiness and sparkling intelligence could hope for is a handful of regular gigs at an upscale piano bar and a teaching position at a local college.  There's no shame in that prospect, of course, but the era in which guys could fill large concert halls playing Phineas Newborn selections in support of a major label album are long gone.

Clarence Burke, Jr. of the Five Stairsteps has died.

The schadenfreude that's greeted the announcement of the cancelation of Kanrocksas is discouraging.  What's with all the bitter people who can't stand the idea of others having a good time?

Beau Bledsoe offers a fascinating peek behind the curtains at Fado Novato's successful fundraising campaign to finance an extended trip to Portugal.

Tech N9ne is featured on Wrekonize's "Freak".

Hodgy Beats' "Years" is impressive.  RIYL: OFWGKTA, alcohol, "Swimming Pools (Drank)."

People continue to attempt to commiserate with me about my work at Rockfest.  They don't get it.  I relish the annual event.  Here's an anecdote from this year's edition of Rockfest.  As the Danish band Volbeat played a medley of Johnny Cash covers, I watched a pair of strangers bond over their NASCAR tattoos.  Witnessing the encounter filled me with joy. 

Kansas City Click: My official picks are published here.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)


Average Jane said...

I appreciate that you enjoy all types of music, including the stuff at Rockfest. I can't bring myself to attend an all-day concert these days but if I were going to pick one, that would be it.

Happy In Bag said...

I'm counting on you and yours joining me next year, AJ. It's easy if it's dry.