Carmen Staaf and Allison Miller
Fri, Apr 28 at 7:30pm
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Drummer Allison Miller and pianist Carmen Staaf continue the collaboration they began on Science Fair in duo format on 2022's critically acclaimed Nearness (Sunnyside), freely exploring originals and standards with playful intelligence and deeply synced connection. Their co-led album Science Fair (Sunnyside) made both the NY Times and LA Times "Best of 2018" lists, and received 4.5 stars in DownBeat. The two have worked together in many settings, from Miller's Boom Tic Boom; the Miller/Jenny Scheinman-led Parlour Game; Staaf's trio; and Miller's multimedia show Rivers: In Our Veins; to collaborations with tap and kathak dancers and with the American Ballet Theater. Staaf and Miller each have a composition included in "New Standards: 101 Lead Sheets by Women Composers" (Berklee Press, 2022). This widely varied background provides a well of inspiration and shared possibilities for the roving musical conversations on Nearness.
Herbie Hancock calls Carmen Staaf "a consummate jazz pianist with equal talent in composition, orchestration and arranging. A bright future awaits her." Currently pianist and Musical Director for NEA Jazz Master Dee Dee Bridgewater, Carmen has performed everywhere from the Village Vanguard with John Zorn, to Lincoln Center as a guest soloist with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, to recordings with Natalie Merchant and Lila Downs. She has performed with jazz luminaries including Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock (in a two-piano setting at the Playboy Jazz Festival), Eddie Gomez, Bob Brookmeyer, and at the Kennedy Center in concert alongside Fred Hersch and Kenny Barron. A Yamaha Artist, she has been a DownBeat Critics Poll "Rising Star Pianist" for the past two years. She co-leads a piano trio with the drummer Jeff Williams; the trio has released the albums "Bloom" (Whirlwind) and "Woodland" (Newvelle). She was a fellow at the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute, where she studied with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. Carmen has played at venues including Carnegie Hall, the Newport and Monterey Jazz Festivals, International Jazz Days in Paris and at the White House, and throughout Europe, Latin America and India. Formerly on faculty at Berklee, Carmen teaches at the New School and is a regular Artist in Residence at the Berklee Global Jazz Institute.
NYC-based drummer/composer/teacher Allison Miller engages her deep roots in improvisation as a vehicle to explore all music. Described by critics as a Modern Jazz Icon in the Making, Miller won Downbeat magazine's 67th Annual Critics Poll "Rising Star Drummer" and JazzTimes magazine's Critics Poll. Her composition, "Otis Was a Polar Bear", is included on NPR's list of The 200 Greatest Songs by 21st Century Women+. She is also the first recipient of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation's Commissioning Grant. The commissioned work, Rivers In Our Veins, is now being performed throughout the United States and has grown into a multimedia suite featuring live music, tap dance, contemporary dance, and video. Miller, a three time Jazz Ambassador for the U.S. State Department, was Monterey Jazz Festival's 2019 Artist in Residence, alongside bassist/producer Derrick Hodge. Miller is also a proud member of the critically acclaimed Bluenote recording supergroup Artemis and has been the rhythmic force behind behind such artists as Toshi Reagon, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Sara Bareilles, Ani DiFranco, Natalie Merchant, Brandi Carlile, Indigo Girls, and Late Night with Seth Meyers. As an educator, Miller teaches at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and is the Artistic Director for Jazz Camp West. In 2017 Miller was appointed Arts Envoy to Thailand for her work with Jazz Education Abroad.
"Allison Miller and Carmen Staaf share an affinity for incorporating unexpected elements within familiar forms. That was obvious on their previous collaboration, the 2018 album Science Fair, recorded with a trio and quintet. Here, they use it to great effect on a set of piano and drum duets." -John Frederick Moore, Jazziz, 2022
"Nearness, by necessity and design (read: it was made during the pandemic), disposes of all but the two principals [from Science Fair]. That it feels no less full, and fulfilling, is a testament to the skill and inventiveness of Miller and Staaf...
...That level of intuition characterizes all of their arrangements. Of the five Staaf and three Miller compositions, none are misfires. Staaf's melodicism and Miller's sense of control make for an exciting, unexpected conversation...the pianist and drummer navigating their way through one passage after another as a single-minded unit." -Jeff Tamarkin, JazzTimes, 2022