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Allison Miller

Allison Miller

Between touring as part of the U.S. State Department’s Jazz Ambassador program and working with artists that range from singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant to multireedist Marty Ehrlich, the New York-based drummer Allison Miller found time to compose seven of the eight tunes for her debut as a leader, 5 a.m. Stroll (Foxhaven). Lenny White produced the album, which finds Miller’s imaginative writing fleshed out by Ray Drummond (bass), Steve Wilson (alto saxophone, alto flute), Bruce Barth (piano) and Virginia Mayhew (tenor saxophone).

Rather than merely showcasing her chops over a series of grooves, Miller puts her harmonic skills on display in tunes like the bright, driving title track and the subdued “Shadow’s Reflection” and “Theme,” the latter a two-part reflection on 9/11 that avoids melodrama. For a version of “Evidence,” probably Thelonious Monk’s most pointillistic piece, she takes an alternate route, playing a slinky funk beat throughout the tune that gives way to an explosive drum solo at the end. Producer White helped her solidify the arrangement of “Evidence” she heard in her head. “He was saying, ‘How long can you stick with that beat and not mess with it?’ which is, in my mind how I hear it too,” Miller says. “But drummers, we get antsy behind the drums.”

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