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Andy Milne & Unison: The reMission (Sunnyside)

A review of the pianist's first album since being diagnosed with and recovering from prostate cancer

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Andy Milne & Unison: The reMission
The cover of The reMission by Andy Milne & Unison

Aside from its unusual approach to capitalization, the title isn’t an attempt to be clever; this album is the first recording released by pianist Andy Milne since being diagnosed with, and recovering from, prostate cancer in 2017. The experience, and in particular the homeopathic healing process he underwent, gave Milne—who leads Dapp Theory as well as working under his own name—a new sense of place and led him to undertake his first foray into the time-tested piano trio format.

Joined by venerable bassist John Hébert and drummer Clarence Penn, Milne takes a conversational tone in the opener, McCoy Tyner’s “Passion Dance.” His note choices are carefully considered, his lyricism pronounced. In this new-to-him context, Milne doesn’t attempt acrobatics—his solos are rooted in the traditional (he cites Peterson, Evans, Jarrett, and Jamal as inspirations in his liner notes)—but neither is he overly cautious. His aim here isn’t to reinvent the piano trio, but rather to put his stamp on it. Turns out the format suits him just fine.

His accompanists were smartly chosen. In the uptempo numbers, Hébert peels out bold and exploratory lines, and Penn is ever in the pocket; he too has no great need to prove anything. But it’s often in the ballads that the trio’s most moving moments take place. On “Vertical on Opening Night,” Milne gets so whispery that his playing virtually floats, and “The Call,” largely a Hébert vehicle, is filled with air, exuding delicacy. “Geewa,” the penultimate number, is one of few where the three go considerably further out on a limb, but while they’re quite self-assured there, the tune seems an outlier amid the more fully realized, albeit less valiant, ones that make up the bulk of the recording.

Preview, buy or download The reMission on Amazon!

Jeff Tamarkin

Jeff Tamarkin on social media

Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.