Thursday, June 6, 2013

One for Grew

The world is a less musical place in the absence of one of the greatest and most underrated jazz pianist. Mr. Mulgrew Miller departed this life last week and somehow I missed it.

I briefly heard one station make mention of a tribute to Grew, but in the haste of a busy workaday world I dismissed it as nothing more than folks starting to wake up to his greatness. Maybe, subconsciously I knew what they meant and I just wasn't ready to process it. Sadly, I must now acknowledge that Mr. Miller has passed from this life and no amount of self deception will change that. This blog would not be worthy of its namesake if we did not pause to acknowledge the passing of this great jazz lion.

I cannot tell you technically what it is that makes Mulgrew Miller such an enjoyable purveyor of this music but the proof is always in the listening. His playing had the uncanny ability to consistently remain sonically in the background while simultaneously always being front and center. Upon discovering that he was the pianist on a particular piece of music (and he was the pianist on quite a lot of jazz) my reaction would always be of course he is, who else could it have been. He made it sound easy but no one else has perfected that sound. He was almost single handedly leading the charge in finding the new sound of contemporary jazz piano and for me was the definition of what modern jazz should be. No disrespect to the many fine jazz musicians of the world. There are many great jazz piano players but there was only one Mulgrew Miller. And now he is gone.

Do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with his music both as a leader and as a prolific sideman. You will actually hear what many other jazz piano players are trying to do.

The jazz community has two consistent and enduring tendencies that I have observed while indulging in this music. One is to have really great one syllable nick names for the best players; Satch, Byrd, Diz, Monk to name a few. And the second tendency is that we gain full appreciation for the great ones only after they have made their mark on the music and permanently layed out.

I think Grew can be added to the list on both counts. I hope I am around long enough to see Grew get his full measure of appreciation.

RIP Mr. Miller

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