Winner of the 2013 Juno Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Recording, Montreal saxophonist Joel Miller marries his awe-inspiring technique and boundless sense of musical adventure with a pop musician’s desire to make music that moves people.
His compositions are inspired by the melodic simplicity and emotional depth of American folk music, and they’ve been praised by Downbeat as “passionate and creative, melodic yet exploratory.” His free-spirited eclecticism has been equally lauded by the magazine for “illustrating the cross-pollination emblematic of the Montreal jazz community.” Dave Douglas calls Miller a breath of fresh air and one of the great pleasures of the Montreal scene.
Miller’s recording, Swim, pushes the boundaries of the traditional jazz quartet with cinematic passages that evoke a shared universe of stars, a sudden drop-off at the bottom of a lake, and even a humourously dark scene from a Ben Stiller film. The album’s wistful sax lines and frenetic crescendos mark Miller’s first outing as a lone soloist, and they see him floating easily above the surface of his breathtaking acoustic scores. He is joined by his long-time Canadian rhythm section of Greg Ritchie on drums and Fraser Hollins on bass, along with American pianist Geoffrey Keezer.
His 2013 album Honeycomb explores a whole other side of Miller’s musical personality. Its breezy, Latin-inspired cadenzas draw inspiration from his time spent studying Afro-Peruvian rhythms in Lima, Peru in 2008. It is also inspired by his associations with Afro-Peruvian artist Oscar Stagnaro and Latin jazz musician Joé Armando. The moody electronics are an extension of his work with his award-wining jazz-electronic ensemble Mandala, and the additional nods to Latin American folklore derive from Miller’s other work with Haitian and Afro Colombian music.