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Allison Miller

Drummer, composer, and bandleader Allison Miller is a boundary-pushing performer known for her adventurous approach to post-bop and modern creative jazz. Arriving on the New York scene in the late '90s, Miller has played with a diverse range of performers from Ani DiFranco and Natalie Merchant to Marty Ehrlich, Joel Harrison, and Dr. Lonnie Smith. A three-time Jazz Ambassador of the U.S. State Department, she also leads her own inventive groups like Honey Ear Trio and Boom Tic Boom (with violinist Jenny Scheinman) -- the latter trio has earned praise with albums like 2013's No Morphine No Lilies and 2016's Otis Was a Polar Bear. Miller and Scheinman also collaborated on 2019's Parlour Game. Rivers in Our Veins, an exuberant and emotionally powerful 12-song cycle inspired by America's rivers and watershed, arrived in 2023. Born in Texarkana, Texas, and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Miller began her musical studies on the piano at age seven, introduced to the instrument by her mother, who also played and sang. At age ten, she switched to drums, and by age 12 was studying locally with noted swing and big-band drummer Walter Salb, who she credits as a major early influence, especially in the sense of building an inclusive family of musicians with which to surround herself. Following high school, she attended the University of West Virginia, where she enrolled in the alternative music program, studying percussion styles from all over the globe. Upon graduating, she moved to New York City, where she further honed her skills, studying privately with noted drummers Michael Carvin and Lenny White. There, she quickly earned a reputation as a strong session and touring performer, appearing on albums with guitarist Joel Harrison, saxophonist and longtime associate Virginia Mayhew, reed player Marty Ehrlich, and organ legend Dr. Lonnie Smith. As a solo artist, Miller made her debut with the Lenny White-produced 5am Stroll in 2004. Featured on the album were saxophonists Steve Wilson and Mayhew, pianist Bruce Barth, and bassist Ray Drummond. However, given her active touring, studio, and teaching obligations, she did not record under her own name for five years. It was also during this period that she caught the attention of alternative singer/songwriters like Natalie Merchant and Ani DiFranco, with whom she has toured and recorded on and off for over a decade. In 2010, the drummer issued Boom Tic Boom, the eponymous debut album from her boldly imaginative ensemble with bassist Todd Sickafoose, pianist Myra Melford, and violinist Jenny Scheinman. While her work as a university instructor and as a session and touring musician multiplied, Miller also launched the genre-bending Honey Ear Trio, issuing the group's 2011 debut album, Steampunk Serenade, with bandmates Erik Lawrence (saxophonist) and Rene Hart (bassist). Boom Tic Boom then returned with their sophomore effort, No Morphine No Lilies, in the spring of 2013. The following year, she won a Presenter Consortium for Jazz Grant from Chamber Music America. In 2016, Boom Tic Boom recorded their third album, Otis Was a Polar Bear. Along with band regulars Sickafoose, Melford, and Scheinman, the album also featured cornetist Kirk Knuffke and clarinetist Ben Goldberg. Knuffke was also on board for Miller's sophomore album with her Honey Ear Trio, 2016's Swivel, which found saxophonist Jeff Lederer replacing Lawrence. She was back with Boom Tic Boom for 2019's Glitter Wolf. That same year, Miller and Scheinman collaborated on the jazz-Americana set Parlour Game, sharing equal billing and co-writing all the material. In 2023, she delivered Rivers in Our Veins, an ambitious 12-song cycle inspired by and designed to help draw attention to protecting the many rivers and watersheds of the United States. Along with Scheinman and reedist Goldberg, it featured contributions by pianist Carmen Staaf, trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Todd Sickafoose, and a cadre of tap dancers.
© Matt Collar /TiVo


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