Dominic Miller: Silent Light (ECM)

DominicMiller_SilentNight

Dominic Miller: "Silent Light"

ECM’s sound chamber could hardly suit Dominic Miller better. On his first album for the label, the nylon-string, classical-style guitarist milks every note, thriving on the pauses between them and the whispery effects of fingers sliding across strings. The title of the opening tune, “What You Didn’t Say,” speaks volumes. Captured in shimmering solitude, in real time, Miller puts a sorrowful, slow-moving eight-note phrase through the subtlest changes, with percussionist Miles Bould adding subtle, ghostly touches.

Born in Argentina, raised in Wisconsin from age 10 and currently living in France, Miller is best known as Sting’s longtime sideman (an association represented here by a brief, straightforward rendering of the Sting ballad “Fields of Gold”). He has also played with Paul Simon. His pop sensibility stands out on tunes such as the groove-oriented “Chaos Theory,” the one track featuring overdubs (Miller plays bass on it as well as guitar; Bould, featured on five cuts, plays drums), and “Baden,” a tribute to Brazilian great Baden Powell.

The guitarist’s influences range from the airy heartland jazz of Pat Metheny to the French melodicism of Poulenc to the chiming English folk of Nick Drake. Whatever stylistic guise he enters into, Miller knows the value of economy. Most of the songs are in the three-minute range. But with their lingering emotion and blooming after tones, the tunes have unexpected depth. In his liner notes, he expresses a debt to Mexican director Carlos Reygadas’ 2007 film Silent Light: “Minutes would go by with no movement or dialogue.” As understated as he can be, Miller has rather a lot to say.