Her debut recording has Miller primarily playing alto saxophone, and her ability to play the instrument in a mainstream jazz context is impressive. Her influences are not readily discernable, and that's a good thing. She sports a strong tone, has better than average ideas, and uses the full range of the horn in a way that is quite personable. Trumpeter Tiger Okoshi is her front line foil on two selections, while keyboardists James Brough and especially Bruce Katz, or bassists David Clark and Harvie Swartz split duties, with Bob Savine on drums throughout. The leader wrote six tracks.
Miller plays tenor sax on two cuts, the bouncy calypso for Sonny Rollins' "St. John," where she cops a little of Sonny's swagger, or with the dark bass and crystalline piano ruminations via Brough of the caravan processional "Garnet Canyon." Her alto takes chances on the melody of the hot swinger "My Shining Hour," where samba inserts crop up. Bright straight samba focuses Miller's original "Say Yes," while funky 6/8 tick-tock anchors Savine's "Mr. Chuckles." A blues groove with Katz on organ fires up "The Blue Note" for Stanley Turrentine, while exceptional boogie piano from Katz to hip New Orleans shuffle informs the fun tune "New O." with Okoshi in tow. The two horns really meld for the model hard bopper "Fax Your Life," featuring Miller's most extroverted solo. Katz can play modern too, as he demonstrates during a unique arrangement of "I Didn't Know What Time It Was." Probing ostinato basslines preclude a brief waltz statement, then easy swing allowing Katz to cut loose. He's something special. There's the straight gospel soul ballad version of "The Nearness Of You," and more mysterious deep hued bass and piano as a fuse for Miller's inquisitive sax musings on "If I Loved You."
This is an auspicious debut for Cercie Miller, one that bodes well for her future as a recording artist whose forthcoming releases should be eventful, and as equally dedicated to real jazz. Recommended.