Mulgrew Miller: Live at Yoshi’s Vol. 2

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Jimmy Katz

Mulgrew Miller

Mulgrew Miller has reached that enviable plateau as a group leader where his established trio has become a seamless extension of his own musical identity. On Live at Yoshi’s, Vol. 2 Miller exhibits his customary mainstream mastery. A fluid improviser in the contemporary hard bop-modal tradition, he’s firmly ensconced in the upper echelon. Just don’t overlook the contributions of bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Karriem Riggins-not that these two expert team players call undue attention to themselves. Providing featherbed swing akin to the epic support that Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen laid down for Oscar Peterson (it probably didn’t hurt that Riggins apprenticed in Brown’s trio), Hodge and Riggins cradle Miller while stamping the unit with a fingerprint identity.

The trio scorches Victor Feldman’s “Joshua,” gets deliciously gritty on “Comes Love,” turns tender on “Little Girl Blue” and strikes the perfect groove on “Citadel,” written by Miller’s former employer, Tony Williams. Reminding you who’s the boss, Miller balances elegance and expressivity on a gorgeous, unaccompanied “It’s Easy to Remember.”