Phil Miller - In Cahoots — Out of the Blue
(Crescent Discs CD5CD, 2001, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2001-07-01
Guitarist Miller, no doubt best known for his tenure with Hatfield and National Health, continues his mission with his band “In Cahoots,” represented here by two distinctly different instrumental lineups – a quartet featuring Pip Pyle (drums), Fred Baker (fretless bass), and Pete Lemer (keys), with guest guitarist Doug Boyle, and a sextet which also features Elton Dean (saxes) and Jim Dvorak (trumpet), in addition to the regular members of the quartet. As with previous releases, the music falls squarely into jazz-rock realms, perhaps this time far closer to the vocabulary of jazz (especially on the sextet material, which accounts for five of the discs seven tracks), but the key word here is right in the title: blue. The pieces here are (to varying degrees – more so with the quartet) more blues-affected than one might expect from most of Miller’s recent work, giving it a very distinct flavor. As always, his writing and playing are superb, offering a balanced approach playing fierce melodics off a keen dynamic jazz sensibility, keeping the long pieces energetic over the duration. Special note must be made of Baker’s remarkable fretless work, who together with Pyle maintains a busy bottom end throughout most of the proceedings. With the sextet, Miller keeps a lower profile, yielding to the flights of fancy by saxes and trumpet. While not likely to set the world on fire, the disc features plenty of fine instrumental excursions that seem to get more compelling with each listen.
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