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NEW RELEASES : A 'Hand' for Newcomers and Veterans

July 25, 1993|ZAN STEWART

MULGREW MILLER

"Hand in Hand"

Novus

* * * *

Pianist and composer Miller, making his Novus debut after eight sessions for Landmark, presents a splendid assortment of nine modern mainstream originals--one's by pianist Donald Brown--that are inventive, warm, visceral, swinging, direct and unabashedly musical.

Crafted with extreme care, these selections are accessible enough to open a jazz newcomer's ear to their delightful inner workings, yet exhibit such depth and sophistication that a veteran listener will be more than satisfied.

The leader, known for his work with drummers Art Blakey and Tony Williams, employs a crack crew to examine his wares--saxophonists Joe Henderson and Kenny Garrett, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, vibist Steve Nelson, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash. To a one, these jazz zealots deliver improvisations that fit tongue-in-groove with the moods of Miller's pieces, sounding like an organized group rather than the ad-hoc assemblage they are.

Variety is the watchword here. "Grew's Tune" is a medium tempo groover, spotlighting Joe Henderson's soft, dusky tones, strung together in chains like rows of Oriental lanterns hanging around a garden, and Miller's pretty notes burst suddenly into glowing passages that make you tingle.

"For Those Who Do," which, like "Leilani's Leap," is built around a bossa-rock beat, finds the leader soloing succulently as his cohorts simultaneously play the ending melody.

"Thinking Out Loud" is fast, and somewhat challenging, while "Like the Morning" is slow and tender. Here Miller plays gingerly, coaxing notes with the care a cat takes walking across wet grass. The title track and "Neither Here Nor There" are long drinks of the blues--the former funky, the latter very much of the '90s.

This class effort could serve as a prototype not only to bring more fans to the jazz realm, but also to stir up aficianados already there.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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