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Mulgrew Miller Trio: Live at Yoshi’s Volume One

After some choice solos and trades of fours, when Mulgrew Miller’s trio returns to the theme on the album-opener “If I Were a Bell,” they sound like they’re getting ready to wrap up the song-but change their minds midstream. Over Derrick Hodge’s bright walking bass lines and Karriem Riggins’ forceful drumming, pianist Miller goes back for a second helping and adds to what was already an extremely creative set of choruses.

The energy the trio cooks up on “Bell” carries through the rest of the set, which was recorded last July over two nights at the Oakland, California club Yoshi’s. Even when the pace slows down midway through the album with three ballads in a row, the music never drags. Miller throws some fleet runs and arpeggio riffs into the gentle and somewhat timely Horace Silver tune “Peace.” Among his impressive turns in “Don’t You Know I Care” is a rapid descent down the keyboard that sounds like the spirit of Art Tatum possessed him. Following these tunes, “What a Difference a Day Makes” features some slightly funky, gospel-type voicings and an arco solo by Hodge that continues the feeling with some great slides down the neck. Miller has previously recorded “Waltz for Monk,” penned by his Contemporary Piano Ensemble bandmate Donald Brown. Other than a few Monkian clusters in the theme, the piece salutes the pianist more than evokes him, but this performance nonetheless finds Miller building in energy as he proceeds.

The token Miller composition-“Press-ing the Issue”-closes the album on a fast note with the group collectively pushing each other to a frenzy. Like “Bell,” it sounds like they don’t want to stop, locking into an exciting vamp in the closing minutes.

Bring on Volume Two.

Originally Published