Sunday, December 8, 2013

12 Questions for Ron Miller!

Enjoy the music from the video above featuring Gary Keller and Ron Miller live in Hilsinki while you read the interview!

Ron at home

There is so very much to tell you about Ron Miller that he tells you better on his website, so we'll give you "just the facts, ma'am".

) Born in Springfield, MA, raised in Hollywood, FL, lives in Dania Beach, FL. 2) Became a faculty member at a then evolving UM Jazz Studies department; teaching Jazz Composition, Advanced Improvisation, and Jazz Piano; directing the Monk/Mingus and Avant-garde ensembles, the Wayne/Herbie ensemble, and the Horace Silver ensemble. 3) Currently Professor Emeritus of Jazz Studies. 4) Authored "Modal Jazz Composition and Harmony Vol 1 (in 3rd printing) and Vol 2.

) Composition students under Ron include: Pat Metheny, Bobby Watson, Bruce Hornsby, Mark Egan, Matt Harris, Gil Goldstein & Jon Secada. 5) Ron has performed with: Ira Sullivan, Allen Eager, James Moody, Bill Pace, John Yarling, Rick Margitza, Kenny Wheeler, David Liebman, Tim Ries, Santi Quintans and Pat Metheny 6) His compositions have been recorded by Hal Galper, Danny Gottlieb/John Abercrombie, Red Rodney & Ira Sullivan, Gary Kelley (with Kenny Werner/Billy Hart) and Barry Ries (with Joe Lovano), to name a few. 7) He's a pretty fabulous pianist. 8) He recently released a terrific album
called "Peacock Park"with 7 of his finest compositions and a killer line-up .

The Questions:

1) Do you come from a musical family?

Yes. My father played guitar, his brother, my uncle played piano and violin. They both played by ‘ear’ and there were many family jam sessions. Another uncle played organ, my grandfather played violin. Two uncles on my mother’s side played trumpet, one was a professional playing with bands like the Dorsey band.

2) When did you begin playing music? Were you a diligent student as a boy?

My mother told me that as a toddler, I would work my way to the piano, reach up and pick out tunes. I started lessons around 10 years old. The lessons were not with a serious musician so I did not acquire diligence until my early twenties.

3) Is there a pianist who influenced you more than others? Is there a current, young pianist you are impressed with?

Early on I was more influenced by composers, so Horace Silver was my first big first influence, Then Thelonius Monk. As I got more interested in piano playing, the biggest influence was Herbie Hancock, then Joe Zawinul and McCoy Tyner. In my mature years, Bill Evans and classical pianist Arthur Rubinstein are a big influence. Of the younger pianists, I find myself listening to Fred Hersh more than others.

4) You've got quite the piano ($35k Seilor grand) at home! Does your wife have to pull you off of it? Do you have a practicing regimen?

This piano has a sound that I love. It is similar to a Bösendorpher, but darker; it has the famous Renner action. Yet, I do not play it as much as it deserves, but when I get ‘into it” I do spent much time on it as well as when working on classic pieces. Now, I tend to practice mostly prior to a jam or recording session. I have found that much musical execution is 90% mind, the rest physical.

5) You've had some amazing bands over the years. Does any performance of yours stand out as the most memorable?

For a few years.I played a weekly gig at a club in Hollywood, Fla. One Night Stan’s
Miller Keller Band at One Night Stans, Hollywood

Your compositions are another part of your legacy. Is composing easy for you or a labor of love? Do you compose at the piano?

Composing is clearly my strongest talent. It is very easy for me. It all just ‘comes to me’ as if I am just a conduit of a massive source. I compose mostly in my head these days and realize my efforts sitting in my chair on my MacBook Pro with the notation app, Sibelius 7. Most of my previous compositions came from practicing rhythms, vamps, and melodic figures from which a composition evolved.

7) Do you remember what it felt like the first time someone else recorded your music?

I felt grateful, pleased, and honored.

8) As witnessed on your album "Peacock Park", your compositions are often serious or 'deep', but one walks away with an uplifted or positive feeling. Is this intentional?

No intention. I compose what sounds good to me. Believe me, I am the biggest fan of my compositions. I am also the cook in the family, and like most cooks, I devise my recipes to please my pallet. That my family also enjoys my cooking completes the process. When others enjoy my music, it gives me the same satisfaction.

9) Who is your dream rhythm section?

Hard call, but, I would pick bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Joe Chambers. Their playing on the Wayne Shorter CD "Etcetera" is a good reference. Of course, the rhythm section on the CD "Blues For The Old New Age, Gary Keller Plays The Music of Ron Miller": drummer Billy Hart and bassist Drew Gress are both excellent for my tunes too.
Marc Colby, Billy Bowker, Mark Egan Ron Miller 1972

10) You've mentioned that Gil Evans is a compositional influence. What is your favorite work by him? Who is the consummate jazz artist for you?

I am more influenced by Gil’s arranging… too much so. I love his arranging on Miles + 19. Jazz artist - Wayne Shorter, classical - Rachmaninoff.

11) In addition to 35 years as Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Miami, your books are taught and read all over the world. What do you hope a student walks away with after having been instructed by you?

To truly love music and to share that love and the beauty of his or her compositions with the world.

12) You entered computer programming as a 'backup career'. Is this something you recommend to aspiring artists & students?

There are a lot of musicians that have become good code writers the reason being that programming is quite similar to arranging where events occur in a time line. Many non-musician programmers don’t have that sense. There was a time when one could be a casual programmer. but the hardware is getting so complex these days and the competition so high I would be reluctant suggest any musician take time away from much needed work on music.

13) Is there a program or app you've developed that you are particularly pleased with?

I am pleased with the code I wrote for the app called Drum Thing. The code is very compact, sturdy and fast. Most of the app was written in regular C, the rest in Cocoa, apple's version of Objective C. And, the app sold very well until iOS apps hit the market. The app Patterns X is also popular and has been purchased by some ’name’ players.

14) Name 3-5 albums that are currently in rotation in the Miller home.
David Fernandez and Ron Miller

Well, I listen mostly to internet radio via Pandora or Slacker. My channels on Slacker include: Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Roland Kirk, Wayne Shorter, Charles Mingus. On Pandora: Ravel, Stravinsky, Mozart, Baroque, Respighi. I did recently buy "Domino" by Roland Kirk from the iTunes store.

15) Are there any performances or an album in the works?

In the works is a CD: "Steve Rucker Plays the Music of Ron Miller", Two concerts at Gusman hall, U.M. in March (one is with Danny Gottlieb, Marc Egan and Mark Colby, the other is a presentation of my compositions by the UM jazz faculty. I will play on a few tunes), finishing the book: "Jazz Composition, The Creative Process". A week long lecture/performance teaching gig in Manhattan in late spring.

Thank you Ron for doing the interview!!

You can hear Ron Miller on episodes 8 and 12 of our podcast! There is also a wealth of audio on his website from all periods of his career and from his famous RonJams. Below is a link to his album "Peacock Park" at CD Baby. Thanks for stopping by! - PCJ

Ron Miller: Peacock Park the Music of Ron Miller

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