Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom / Allison Miller

No Morphine No Lilies

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When drummer and composer Allison Miller auspiciously debuted her Boom Tic Boom band on a self-titled offering in 2010, the group was just coming together. The results were remarkable. Miller's disciplined progressive jazz compositions proved wildly knotty, martial, full of humor and invention by pianist Myra Melford, bassist Todd Sickafoose, and violinist Jenny Scheinman. In the three intervening years, the group has matured by playing together whenever the opportunity presented itself. Recorded over three days at Fantasy Studios, No Morphine No Lillies is, if anything, an even more far-reaching affair. Scheinman, for one, has been further integrated into the ensemble, whereas she played a lesser role on the debut. Miller's compositions are all piano-based, and Melford is the perfect instrumentalist to give her often complex melodies the kind of "singing" voice they deserve. Opener "Pork Belly" melds swinging post-bop to modalism with a series of Caribbean phrases and rhythms inserted into the melody. Sickafoose rides out a vamp with Miller extrapolating time. Melford's solo is colorful: sharp, percussive, deftly moving through blues and bop, and underscoring them with avant edges. "The Itch" jumps off with an Eastern-tinged head, via Melford and guest Ara Anderson on trumpet. They match notes, just a fraction of a beat off so as to create an angular texture, while Miller jumps time with a hyperactive shuffle and Sickafoose makes it all groove. Steven Bernstein lends his slide trumpet to a pair of cuts here. On "Speak Eddie," he and Scheinman capture the front line and he solos right after its statement, as Miller double- and triple-times him, never straying from the punchy pocket. Sickafoose quickly struts the center. Melford's all but unaccompanied solo is on the fringes, but fills by Scheinman and Bernstein remind the listener of the groove. It's tight, crackling, fun. This band can and does swing very hard, as displayed in the reading of Lisa Parrott's "Six Nettes," where post-bop meet the integral notions of 21st century progressive jazz. "Sun Comes Up the Reservoir" offers a lyric take on folk forms. Its nearly pastoral melody features Scheinman's violin nearly singing. Her interplay with Sickafoose and Miller in the middle is seamless, dancing the line between folk song and improvisation. No Morphine No Lillies is by turns a dazzling, delightful, and challenging exercise led by not only one of the finest drummers on the scene, but also one of the most innovative compositional voices.

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