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Album review: Allison Miller's 'Boom Tic Boom'

March 23, 2010 | 10:38 am

Boomtic250 Jazz is historically a male-dominated field, and the list of famous female jazz drummers isn’t a terribly long one. But with the rowdily named “Boom Tic Boom,” Allison Miller stakes a claim to being one of the most promising drummers in the game, regardless of gender.

Perhaps better known for her rock-oriented work backing singer-songwriters Ani DiFranco and Brandi Carlile, Miller has made a name for herself accompanying New York City heavyweights such as Steven Bernstein, Erik Friedlander and Mike Stern. Joined by DiFranco bandmate Todd Sickafoose on bass and pianist Myra Melford, Miller's second album as a bandleader is a free-wheeling and often invigorating collection that should appeal to fans of post-bop and the cutting edge.

Rising out of a series of delicate cymbal explorations, “Fead” evolves into a beautifully rough-hewn swing, and "Big Lovely" features a rollicking turn from Melford over a swampy groove from Sickafoose and Miller. Stretching her band mates with a seemingly endless variety of bold improvisations, Melford also composes two of the album’s most atmospheric pieces, the off-kilter “Be Melting Snow” and “Night,” which simmers atop contemplative percussion textures from Miller. Jazz violinist Jenny Scheinman also joins the trio to lend a Western-leaning swerve to the joyful “CFS (Candy Flavored Sidewalk).”

Miller is a drummer who knows her history -- the album also features an intimate take on Hoagy Carmichael’s “Rockin’ Chair”  and a hip-shaking reworking of Mary Lou Williams’ “Intermission.” With more inspiring albums like this one, her standing as a relative rarity in her field could be history as well.

-- Chris Barton

Allison Miller

"Boom Tic Boom"

Three Stars

Foxhaven Records

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