Phil Miller's been around for a while and has covered a sidestream of the fusion sound that's been neglected yet witnessed brilliant antecedents on the old CTI label. Where Soft Machine Legacy (here) and others are carrying on the harder edge of the Miles-advented genre, Miller has listened more to Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, the Crusaders, and then the ECM offshoots that waxed even more experimental. Thus, in In Cahoots, we hear a midground between trad flowing into experimentalism and drop-dead delicious charts dragging that era seductively into new configurations. Think about what would've happened had Gl Evans and Don Ellis been born later in time.
Of particular note, amid an embarrassment of riches, is Fred Baker's bass playing, a fluidly propulsive narrative writing secondary structures beneath the main melodics. Frequently, drummer Mark Fletcher is the true sole rhythm section, Baker forming a bridge between him and the larger ensemble. The result is unique but in classic fashion, attributable in large part to Miller's remarkable writing prowess. Progheads will be happy to note stalwarts Didier Malherbe (Gong), Richard Sinclair (Caravan), Barbara Gaskin (Stewart / Gaskin), and etc. as adjuncts on this outing.
Miller has never been a gloryhog, and this sometimes works against him a trifle, as here. Ears like mine want to hear more of his great playing but the guy's content to subordinate himself, integrating seamlessly into the band, though generous as hell with solo space for others (catch Baker's Jaco-esque bit in Flashpoint) alongside the few he grants himself. Ah well, ya git some, ya give some, and there's more than enough dazzling listening all around in each and every cut. This is the sort of CD that never gets old, filled to the brim with inventiveness, tight playing, polyrhythms, and the whole catalogue one expects in the genre. It doesn't matter if you're an old Keef Hartley fan, a Turning Point aficionado, or even a devotee of the Sanatana-esque Iceberg, Miller's stuff is right up your alley, pilgrim, treasuring vintage jazz while incorporating everything between then and now, and you'll only be happier the sooner you lay hold of it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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