Album Review

Miller, Lloyd – “A Lifetime In Oriental Jazz” – [Jazzman]

ArtCrimes   9/20/2011   12-inch, Jazz

With a recording career spanning over 50 years, Lloyd Miller’s musical development can’t really be summed up on a single LP, but Jazzman has attempted to do so here, with a few tracks dating back to around 1960, several from the late ’60s and some recent tracks as well. (Unfortunately it’s difficult to determine which tracks are from where / when, with most of the details confined to the microscopic liner notes. I’ve added relevant dates to the running order where I could determine that info.)

Miller mastered many instruments from Western and Eastern disciplines, and although he originally tried to make a go of it as a jazz musician in Europe, his scholarly ways eventually led him to more disciplined study and performance of primarily Eastern styles. The recordings here highlight his earliest attempts to combine his interests into a hybrid, what he called “oriental jazz.” Miller demonstrates his ability to play instruments from Afghanistan, Iran, India, Viet Nam, and Africa, played in conjunction with a couple of different jazz groups.

It might be pointed out that the players here are not jazz titans, as they often seem content to follow the cool West Coast jazz model, with most focus on the arrangements rather than individual players’ abilities to express themselves. Sometimes the Eastern instruments are limited to playing an intro for what ends up being a pedestrian jazz groove; other pieces have more of an Eastern sound overall, bringing to mind groups like??Salah Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band. The longest track here is an improvised suite featuring Miller playing 8 different instruments, which perhaps is the best demonstration of his own substantial talents.

On the technical side, some very abrupt edits occur on some selections, perhaps due to using more than one performance for a single master, or perhaps editing for the time constraints of the original vinyl. ??Whatever the reason, this editing has not been accomplished with much finesse.

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