Live at the Kennedy Center: Volume Two
As is the case with many jazz musicians, Mulgrew Miller’s live performances have always surpassed his studio efforts. So it’s no surprise that his best CDs are the four most recent: Live at Yoshi’s Vol. 1 & 2 and Live at The Kennedy Center Vol. 1 & 2. The newest presents Miller’s second set on the KC Jazz Club’s (atop the Kennedy Center) opening night in September 2002; the first set appeared on Vol. 1. This is piano-trio jazz at its sublime best, impeccably recorded by the late David Baker.
On “Song For Darnell,” with its shifting tempos and dynamics, Miller demonstrates how fully formed a pianist he has become; his beautiful touch and crystal-clear extended runs are simply breathtaking. “Grew’s Tune” is an ingratiating, loping theme whose glistening single-note lines anchor a riveting improv, gently swinging all the way. Derrick Hodge impresses with his cogent, precisely articulated bass solo, and drummer Rodney Green succeeds that with his own logically built, captivating solo.
“Farewell to Dogma,” a Miller piece previously recorded, is here enhanced by a wonderful gospel- and blues-inflected intro and the pianist’s ecstatic block-chorded concluding section. Hodge’s solo displays his resonant sound and thoughtful melodic ideas. One savors every Miller ballad treatment, and “Old Folks” is no exception. His exemplary sound, chord selection, melodic development and swirling lines are all in abundant display during this 13-minute masterpiece. Finally, on “Eleventh Hour” Miller’s long boogie-woogie intro is pure joy, followed by a reflective, bluesy interlude, before the trio ignites in a surging rush, the most intense playing of the memorable set.