CD REVIEW: Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom - Otis Was A Polar Bear



Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom - Otis Was A Polar Bear
(Royal Potato Family 20286 22109. CD review by Peter Bacon)

There is a freshness about this album that comes partly from the instrumentation - clarinet, cornet and violin front line, with piano, bass and drums - partly from the personnel - characterful players like violinist Jenny Scheinman - but of course the main reason is Allison Miller.

She drives Boom Tic Boom not just through her drums but in her compositions which, while they may incorporate snatches of klezmer and chamber music counterpoint along with long-lined melodies and loose-limbed rhythms, do so in a really cohesive fashion. This eclectic mix of influences is intimately assimilated within her writing style.

And it’s a style that leaves generous room for interpretation and expansion by her band. Pianist Myra Melford takes things off on a distinctive direction getting almost Little Richard-rocky and Meade Lux Lewis-boogie at different times during High T. That this and Miller’s tom-tom-led drum solo fit within a piece that has a head that might be adapted from a string quartet composition shows just how far and wide this band can reach in under ten minutes.

These are tunes that can be judged by their titles: Pig In A Sidecar and Hoarding The Pod - the latter a crazy helter-skelter for Kirk Knuffke’s cornet and Ben Goldberg’s clarinet with Melford going mad behind them, the former a clarinet/plucked fiddle theme over a space-filled lolloping rhythm - are every bit as witty as their monikers suggest.

Slow Jam is the most infectious of grooves driven by Miller and bassist Todd Sickafoose, while the title track has something of the Frisell in the timelessness of its initial reggae-tinged manner and then suddenly bursts out sideways into a North African piano thing before reconvening with bluegrass meets minimalism violin against a bouncing groove.

All the playing is lovely but a special shout-out is in order for the leader’s terrific drumming - and such fabulous sounding drums too!

Delights abound wherever the laser drops on this enchanting disc.

LINK: Allison Miller's Tic Tic Boom reviewed live at the 2017 Muenster Festival

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