Dave Miller, piano
Andrew Higgins, bass
Bill Belasco, drums
The enjoyable program begins with some classic bebop. “Anthropology,” the Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker line on “I Got Rhythm,” swings hard from the start and has two piano choruses that build up logically along with a heated tradeoff with drummer Belasco. Irving Berlin’s “Be Careful, It’s My Heart was a Bing Crosby hit in the 1930s. Dave enjoys Peggy Lee’s version with George Shearing and there is a touch of the Shearing sound in his use of block chords.
“The Opener” is an obscure Bill Evans song that was recorded by the composer twice (in 1975 and 1977) but by very few others. “It can be played as a ballad or uptempo, so we did it both ways.” Listening to Dave Miller’s version, one could imagine Shearing or Bud Powell enjoying exploring this piece. “The Masquerade Is Over” is often interpreted as a medium-slow ballad but this surprising rendition is taken quite fast, swinging hard and packing its three minutes with plenty of creative ideas by the pianist. Noel Coward’s “Someday I’ll Find You” (from the 1930 play Private Lives) is also normally a slow and wistful ballad but this version really cooks, with Dave hinting at Dave Brubeck a little. It is one of several songs that include a short but satisfying bass solo from Higgins.
While “You Don’t Know What Love Is” has been covered a countless number of times, Dave’s thoughtful version is a bit darker than most while swinging lightly. The mood quickly changes with “Yardbird Suite,” one of Charlie Parker’s most melodic compositions. That standard inspired Dave and his trio to create three minutes of musical magic.
“Estate” is famous as the only bossa nova standard composed by an Italian (Bruno Martino). It debuted in 1960 and two years later Helen Merrill was the first to record it in a jazz setting. Dave’s version is a bit faster than usual while still retaining the bossa nova feeling. “In Your Own Sweet Way” is one of Dave Brubeck’s most famous compositions and this melodic rendition reminds one of Brubeck’s skills as a composer. Dave’s use of block chords in the first half of the last chorus is a highlight.
The oldest song in this collection, Rodgers & Hart’s “The Blue Room,” dates from 1926 (appearing in the play The Girl Friend) and it became a jazz standard almost immediately. While the tune had its greatest popularity during the swing era, it is still played now and then by jazz artists. Dave particularly enjoys it because of its classical feel. The newest song on the set is the one original, “Dusty,” which the pianist wrote in memory of a beloved dog. The boppish song has a shuffle feel that will get one’s foot tapping along with some memorable chord voicings.
“Why Did I Choose You?” is a beautiful ballad with a rather brutal title. Dave says, “I remember hearing George Shearing once introduce this song by saying that it’s a tune that is often played at divorce court!” The set’s main ballad, “Why Did I Choose You?” features tasteful and quietly emotional playing by the pianist.
Bud Powell’s “Hallucinations” brings us back to bebop with three minutes of excitement including a fine drum chorus. The CD concludes with a remake of the title cut from Dave’s previous trio set, “Just Imagine.” After stating the melody, the trio turns this rendition into a happy romp, a contrast to their earlier mellower version. They sound quite celebratory during its final choruses.
Dave Miller is rightfully enthusiastic about playing these songs and in his classic style. “Converting the wind instrument bebop sound to the piano is always an enjoyable challenge. That whole era, including the standards and songs from movies and show tunes, is what keeps me going. One can play those songs in so many different styles and interpretations and they still sound fresh.”
In addition to the joy that he expresses both musically and verbally about playing with his trio, the pianist is quite enthusiastic about working with Rebecca DuMaine. “Performing with my daughter makes me feel like the luckiest person on the planet. When you can have a relationship with your grown child and convert it into something that you are both passionate about and treat it as a business, what greater gift is there?”
Listeners can consider Dave Miller’s Mask-erade to be his latest gift to those who love swinging jazz.
-Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian
…High quality straight ahead jazz Dave Miller Trio – THE MASK-ERADE IS OVER: I’ve been reviewing Dave’s high quality straight ahead jazz for years now, most recently with Rebecca DuMaine on their diverse “Someday, Someday” album…
For this splendid jazz session, Dave’s piano is joined by bassist Andrew Higgins and drummer Bill Belasco, and as you listen to their performance of Irving Berlin’s “Be Careful It’s My Heart”, you’ll realize that you’re in jazz heaven… jazz DJ’s across the globe will already know that and will be plugging this high energy tune into their playlists on a regular basis!
You can literally hear the affinity these players have for each other as you scope out “Estate” (a tune I hadn’t heard before)… since it only clocks in at 3:21, you’ll be hitting “replay” often, I expect.
The trios’ performance on Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite” is totally invigorating and refreshing… if you’re not tapping your fingers & tapping your toes by the second bar, I’ll be mightily surprised!
You will definitely hear shades of Bill Evans as you listen to the trio performing Evans’ “The Opener”… in fact, it only took a couple of bars for me to know that my personal choice for favorite of the fourteen great songs offered up is this one… there’s a real “spring in Dave’s fingers” as he plays this classic tune.
I give Dave and the trio a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) score of 4.99 for this most memorable album.
-Dick Metcalf for Contemporary Fusion
For those unaware, Dave Miller, whether heard leading his own trio or interacting with his daughter, the talented jazz singer Rebecca DuMaine, is a top-notch pianist whose classic style recalls George Shearing, Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal, and Dave Brubeck; but in his own voice, of course.
Indeed, during the past few years, pianist Dave Miller has been featured on a variety of memorable recordings including his own, Just Imagine and several projects toboot.
Named The Mask-erade is Over as a reminder of the Covid pandemic, Miller is heard in top form on his latest recording, that is for sure.
Joined by bassist Andrew Higgins and his longtime drummer Bill Belasco, Dave Miller creates a well-rounded set that mixes together familiar numbers with superior obscurities…
Taking concise solos that make every note count whilst always getting his swinging message across, this highly enjoyable new album opens with the jaunty classic bebop of Anthropology and the quieter, fine dining room ambiance of Irving Berlins Be Careful Its My Heart, and backs those up with the orchestrally magnificent The Masquerade is Over, the fun and perky, yet weirdly obscure Bill Evans The Opener, the mid-tempo, dancefloor twirl of Noel Cowards Someday Ill Find You, and then we get the achingly beautiful You Dont Know What Love Is.
Next up is the upbeat, finger-snapping Yardbird Suite and the free flowing majesty of both Estate and In Your Own Sweet Way, which are in turn followed by the layered hipsway of The Blue Room, the dulcet yearning of Dusty, the piano gossamer of Why Did I Choose You, the album rounding out on the upbeat Hallucinations, closing on the laid back swansong of Just Imagine.
-Anne Carlini for Exclusive Magazine
Billy Miller gives a heavy dose of bop beats with his team of Andrew Higgins/b and Bill Belasco/dr, keeping the energy up and the solos concise, never overstaying their welcome. The team digs in deep to red meat pieces like “Anthropology”, “Yardbird Suite” and “Hallucinations” with the supporting gents giving a hip Latin pulse to “Estate” and going uptown on “Just Imagine”. Belasco’s brushes assuage Miller’s classy ivories on “Be Careful It’s My Heart” and swing easy on “In Your Own Sweet Way” with stately work by Higgins on “Someday I’ll Find You” and the team going into a deep blue period on the dark “You Don’t Know What Love Is”. Tasty trio treats.
Pianist and composer Billy Test brings together his team of bassist Evan Gregor and drummer Ian Froman to mix originals with a couple standards to display his impressionistic chops. He gives hint to an influence from Bill Evans with some clever harmonics over the nimble work of Gregor and Froman on ”All Of You” and is in a pastel mood on his own “Belonging”. You get some nice stick work by Froman as he introduces the nimble “Hardly” and Gregor is stately opening the stately “The Prince” and soloing around the clever interplay with Froman on “Coming Down Roses” . Test is dreamy over the cymbals for “Fate” and gets a chance to show his lyricism in solo form on the luminous “Empty Spaces”. Peaceful pieces.
-George Harris for Jazz Weekly
For several years now Dave Miller has proven himself to be one of the most imaginative pianists on the scene. His new project The Mask-Erade Is Over is comprised of jazz classics as well as some stellar originals. The album kicks off with a wonderfully burning rendition of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Anthropology.” From the first note it is evident that Miller and his trio are taking
no prisoners. Drummer Bill Belasco sounds like a young Max Roach while bassist Andrew Higgins acts as the anchor in the group, keeping the groove steady.
On tracks like “Be Careful It’s My Heart,” “The Masquerade Is Over,” and Bill Evans’ “The Opener” Miller sets a pure jazz tone. No fusion, special effects or bells and whistles. This is a jazz purist’s dream come true in all the best ways. Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite” and Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” are perfect examples of this. You can hear the influences of Bud Powell, George Shearing and Bill Evans in Miller’s masterful piano playing, but his style is also very personal.
An album highlight is Miller’s own “Dusty” which showcases his one-of-a-kind imagination and the trio’s sheer energy. Bud Powell’s “Hallucinations” is brilliant. Miller and the group really capture the haunting mood of Powell’s original recording while creating something new and spontaneous.
If you’re looking for a pure piano jazz trio recording, you will not want to miss out on this one. Dave Miller and his Trio are one of the most potent jazz ensembles to come along in many years.
The album is available on all digital platforms.
-Doc Wendell for LA Jazz Scene
Charlie Parker’s “Anthropology” opens the Miller Trio’s album in a joyful way. From straight-ahead, they shuffle into “Be Careful It’s My Heart.” Strangely, the album’s title track is listed as Track #3 but it’s not. Instead, the tune that plays is “The Opener” which jogs along at a comfortable, moderate pace with Bill Balsco’s drums pushing the tune forward. Andrew Higgins takes a well-played solo on bass. Then comes the album’s title tune, “The Masquerade is Over.” Actually, Dave Miller has changed the spelling of the tune as the album title. It’s meant to reflect our hopeful, collective, community joy in removing our masks worn during the pandemic. I don’t think I ever heard this song played so rapidly. The lyrics are sad and lament the dissolve of a romance, so most people play it as a ballad. However, the Miller Trio zips happily along for three minutes and six seconds with the walking bass skipping alongside Dave’s up-tempo piano and the drums pumping the piece towards the finish line. Dave Miller has a light touch on the piano. His fingers dance briskly over the keys as he reminds us how much we enjoy standard jazz tunes like these: “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” “Yardbird Suite,” “Estate” and “Why Did I Choose You.” This album reminds me of warm evenings, perched at a local, nightclub, piano-bar, while sipping a potent drink and listening to someone talented, like Dave Miller and his trio, play every favorite tune we love to hear.
-Dee Dee McNeil for Musical Memoirs
The title of pianist Dave Miller’s latest album is a take-off on the standard “The Masquerade Is Over” as a reminder of the Covid-19 pandemic. I found Miller’s previous recording, “Just Imagine,” to be marvel- ous. That album was a tributeåto George Shearing, who, along with Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal, and Dave Brubeck, significantly influenced Miller. On this trio recording, he is supported by Bassist Andrew Higgins, and Miller’s long-time drummer Bill Belasco back him on this piano trio recording.
About the 14 tunes performed, Miller states, “I just picked out some tunes that I always had wanted to record.” He indeed has selected a diverse body here from bebop classics like Charlie Parker’s “Anthropol- ogy” and “Yardbird Suite,” a lesser-known Bill Evans composition “The Opener,” Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way,” and standards like “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” and “The Blue Room.” Miller plays a crisp, ingratiating, uncluttered manner who is skilled and creative in constructing his solos while ably sup- ported by Higgins and Belasco.
Highlights include excellent interpretations of the two Parker numbers that exhibit the trio’s crisp rhyth- mic drive and his melodically rooted improvisations.” Yardbird Suite” is exceptional even on this recording. The boss nova classic “Estate” is performed a bit quicker than usual, as is “This Masquerade is Over.” This latter number begins solo before the tempo picks up, with the rest of the trio joining in. There is definite eloquence in his playing on Irving Berlin’s “Be Careful It’s My Heart.”
Also, one must mention Miller’s sensitive touch on “You Don’t Know What Level Is,” along with Belasco’s adept use of brushes.
According to Miller, Bill Evans’ “The Opener” can be played either as a ballad or uptempo. Miller here performs it uptempo with a clean, crisp rendition that might suggest Bud Powell or George Shearing. This writer is familiar with Rodgers & Hart’s “The Blue Room” from the storming Benny Moten Big Band re- cording with Count Basie, Hot Lips Page, and others. Miller’s trio plays it at a tad slower tempo, with Belasco taking a short break. Then there is the charm of Miller’s original “Dusty,” written in memory of a beloved dog.
Also of note is the first-rate rendition of Bud Pow- ell’s “Hallucinations. Here Miller further displays his bebop chops with a strong Belasco drum solo. Listen- ing to this track also highlighted the excellent sound of this splendid piano trio recording.
-Ron Weinstock for Jazz & Blues Report
This is clearly a collection of personal likes by American pianist Dave Miller – so there’s his early inspiration in the form of classic bebop: Anthropology, Yardbird Suite and Bud Powell’s Hallucinations, which he plays closer to Powell’s interpretation than the faster Oscar Peterson version which was under the titleBudo(as was Miles Davis’s).
The title track (actually rendered as The Masquerade Is Over) is apparently a reference to the pandemic, somewhat optimistically it has to be said, and maybe a symptom of long-covid is that you mis-title tracks. Track three is clearly the Bill Evans’ composition The Opener, not Masquerade, and vice-versa. But this is a minor matter and doesn’t detract from what is a proficient and upbeat trio recording.
Classic ballads are covered through attractive takes on Berlin’s Be Careful With My Heart, Rodgers & Hart’s The Blue Room and Coward’s Someday I’ll Find You, and an uptempo bossa nova is thrown in in the shape of Estate.
However, it’s You Don’t Know What Love Is that captures the attention, as Miller slowly and considerately solos, a touch of melancholia, before being joined by the others, and the tone is lightened without losing any of the feeling.
Bassist Andrew Higgins and drummer Bill Belasco give tight and solid support, with occasional opportunity to solo – Higgins notably on You Don’t Know and Belasco on Hallucinations. Overall it’s not world-changing (unlike the title’s allusion), but a relaxed album from a pianist with good technique and a fine sense of swing.
-Jazz Journal UK
One of the things I love about pianist Dave Miller is the way he combines disciplined, fleet-fingered linear technique with a lush, almost orchestral sound. Not as lush as Errol Garner or Bill Evans, and not as linear as, say, Bud Powell, but Miller’s style hovers somewhere on the spectrum between those artists, moving easily along that spectrum, sometimes in the course of a single tune. His latest album (with its somewhat prematurely optimistic title) is a joyful romp through a program of standards including several classic bop tunes (he opens with a thrilling take on Charlie Parker’s “Anthropology”), American Songbook standbys, and a couple of relatively obscure numbers. Bassist Andrew Higgins and drummer Bill Belasco accompany him more than ably, and Belasco’s subtle brushwork is a particular highlight.
-Rick Anderson for CD Hotlist