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Crate Digging : Mulgrew Miller And Wingspan

For Jazz Night's Crate Digging series, Christian McBride uncovers a concert from his big brother, figuratively speaking: the underrated piano innovator Mulgrew Miller.

In many ways Miller, who died in 2013, was the ideal jazz musician. As McBride puts it: "He had the touch of Oscar Peterson, the harmony of Chick Corea, the momentum of McCoy Tyner and the writing prowess of Cedar Walton." As a prolific accompanist — with everyone from master drummers Art Blakey and Tony Williams to the fiery trumpeter Woody Shaw — his artistry suited any situation.

After devoting a large portion of his career to educating the up-and-coming, Miller's impact over the 57 years he lived stretches into the unquantifiable. But his modern, yet soulful style was respected both by his peers and elders, in addition to the next wave of young talent he helped foster; pianist and producer Robert Glasper cites him as a primary influence.

In this episode of Jazz Night, Mulgrew Miller takes his flagship quintet, Wingspan, to breathtaking heights. We'll hear a soaring set featuring his longtime collaborator, the vibraphonist Steve Nelson, recorded in 2007 at Dizzy's Club. McBride also recalls his early days hanging with Miller as both a close friend and mentee — and dusts off a 1992 bootleg cassette of himself, Miller and drummer Lewis Nash. As McBride notes, emphatically: "We all loved you, 'Grew."

Musicians:

Mulgrew Miller, piano; Steve Nelson, vibes; Duane Eubanks, trumpet; Steve Wilson, alto and soprano saxophone; Ivan Taylor, bass; and Ulysses Owens Jr., drums.

Set List:

  • "Return Trip" (Mulgrew Miller) 
  • "Old Folks" (Willard Robinson)
  • "The Sequel" (Mulgrew Miller) 
  • "Go East Young Man" (Mulgrew Miller) 
  • "Wingspan" (Mulgrew Miller) 
  • Credits:

    Writer and Producer: Sarah Geledi; Host: Christian McBride; Music Engineer: Rob Macomber; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand.

    Copyright 2021 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.