John Miller

Stage Door Johnny: John Miller Takes on Broadway

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John Miller is a veteran New York session and backup musician whose bass playing has accompanied a who's who of pop, rock, jazz, and R&B stars dating back to the late '60s. He is also one of the major music contractors in New York, which is to say that, if you want to work in a Broadway pit band, or play on a commercial or a movie soundtrack, or get a job as a session or backup musician, he's the guy to see. (It would help if you were a member of Local 802 of the musicians union.) This is Miller's debut solo album, one on which he adds singing and acoustic guitar playing to his bass work. In his liner notes, he cites as his heroes Mose Allison, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Chet Baker, "instrumentalists who sing," and his work here is in that vein. He has an agreeable, conversational tenor that is actually a cross between Allison and his unacknowledged primary vocal influence, James Taylor. (Fans of Michael Franks also will feel at home with this disc.) In fact, Miller's version of "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" sounds so much like a Taylor performance, not only in the vocals but also in the folk-pop arrangement (think the Taylor cover of "Handy Man"), that it could fool listeners, at least at first. On "Why Can't You Behave?," the leadoff track, which has a jazzier arrangement, another instrumentalist who sings, John Pizzarelli, is recalled. The Latin influence comes in with a version of "Hey There" that sports some Spanish lyrics and a samba reading of "Real Live Girl," partially in Portuguese, with Kerry Linder acting like Miller's own personal Astrud Gilberto clone. As is suggested by the song titles, the Broadway influence appears through the material itself, all show tunes from the musical theater except for the closer, "Secret Love" (which is given a funky big-band arrangement), from the movie musical Calamity Jane. This is an enjoyable busman's holiday that may not presage a shift in career focus for an established musician already in his sixties, but that would support some club dates, the better for a busy music contractor to provide a little more work for his fellow musicians in and around Manhattan.

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