March 29, 2012

Mike Miller (The Sky Lights Up)

Mike Miller is a guitarist whose playing and writing communicates a stunning musical universe. While much is made of individuality and originality among musicians, Miller seems beyond those qualities: he is unlikely in the way he defies description. Consider that Miller has worked with jazz pianist Chick Corea, diva/comedienne Bette Midler, pop craftsmen Gino Vanelli and Burton Cummings, the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, Wall of Voodoo's Stan Ridgeway, film composer and former Devo front man Mark Mothersbaugh, the Frank Zappa Banned from Utopia alumni band, and many others. This is a range of experience that challenges the imagination -- edgy spontaneity in Corea's electric jazz, slapstick "comedy guitar" with Bette Midler, and complex orchestration in the writing of Marc Anthony Turnage and Frank Zappa.
Then listen to his first solo CD, Save the Moon, which features Jimmy Johnson, Tom Brechtlein, Mitchel Forman, Peter Erskine, and Ralph Humphrey. The music on this CD reflects Miller's commitment to develop his own voice, which juggles a rich and wonderful contradiction of qualities: the raw excitement of the electric guitar with a technique that pushes the boundaries of the instrument, and a broad vocabulary with a mischievous sense of humor -- he might play a part a pianist would work out with two hands, or grace the end of a bebop phrase with a Chuck Berry lick and dip of the tremolo bar. Miller is a riveting improviser who can draw you to the edge of your seat as you follow one musical idea developing into another or bending through a series of unexpected twists and turns... and the results are complex, yet melodic and accessible. A simple path lies beneath the surface of all this activity, revealing a guitarist engaged in a playful search for constant musical growth.

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