John Miller

Biding My Time

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    8
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This album is subtitled "John Miller Plays George Gershwin," which puts him in the company of many performers, as well as peeling off a label that had been previously affixed to his forehead, that of a white blues revival artist. Making an abrupt switch from the content of his previous releases, Miller put together an entire album's worth of solo guitar Gerswhin arrangements, and it is simply stellar stuff. Some of the shorter pieces such as "Love Walked In" are miniature masterpieces. Combined with a book of guitar transcriptions that are available, this work has the potential to be a major study item for any guitarist interested in taking it on. Miller's playing is highly arranged in the manner of Duck Baker, and while he doesn't follow the jazz tradition of using the Gershwin models as springboards for extended improvisation, his harmonic reworking of the material and basic methodology reveal a superior grasp of the fretboard and its possibilities. The blues experience gives his playing a bite as well as solid tone and substance, but he certainly entered an area of more originality by jumping out of it into this material. As for the vocals, it would be insane placing Miller in the same league as the great saloon vocalists who have sung this composer's songs, from Johnny Hartman to Ella Fitzgerald. But hey, they weren't picking guitar at the same time. Listeners can decide whether his instrumentals work better than his vocals, as the album is roughly divided in half along these lines. While the instrumentals are purer and somewhat more forceful, some of the songs seem to be missing something if there is nobody singing the lyrics. The high quality of the playing here is probably due to a careful, unrushed production, as the guitarist recorded these 13 solos over a period of several months.

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