6. Allison Miller: “Big Lovely” (Boom Tic Boom, Foxhaven, 2010)
It doesn’t take a drummer to know that groove is front-and-center in jazz. It takes a composer of considerable acuity to make grooves as strong as Allison Miller’s are. The D.C. native brings the mid-Atlantic rhythmic feel to the soul-funk of “Big Lovely,” beginning with an indefatigable bass line (played by Todd Sickafoose) and reinforced by her drums before a blues-drenched piano (courtesy of Myra Melford) sounds off on the proceedings. The key to Miller’s grooves, though, is how they maintain cohesion. “Big Lovely” gives roots even to Melford’s considerable flights of fancy, so Miller can follow her—and then Sickafoose—into free territory without letting go of the pulse. It sounds easier to accomplish than it is.