Montgomery County native and drummer extraordinaire, Allison Miller played at the Mansion at Strathmore on Friday night to a Standing Room Only crowd. Miller, who grew up in Olney and is a graduate of Sherwood High School, got her first experience with drumming studying under legendary musician and teacher, Walter Salb, a Silver Spring, MD resident who was the driving force behind many young drummers and was considered one of the area’s finest teachers, who sadly passed away in 2006.
During Miller’s ninety-minute performance of mostly her own compositions, she played a new song from her latest CD called “Spottswood Drive” as a tribute to Mr. Salb. This piece in her evening of songs was the most heartfelt as she spent time talking between her songs about the inspiration for her songs, and it is evident in the band’s fine performance that Salb was truly an inspiration to her.
Her band, Boom Tic Boom, is comprised of herself on drums, Kirk Knuffle on cornet, Myra Melford on piano and Todd Sickafoose on bass. In various numbers through the evening, each member had solos that really shined through. Miller has assembled a quartet of top-notch musicians who love playing the hard jazz that gives them a signature sound.
Most of her compositions, as she tells us, were written with a different style and interpretation: her smooth piece, “Early Bird,” which had an easy sunrise motif that you playfully filled the mansion room with great ease. Another composition of hers, “Waiting,” featured a great cornet solo by Knuffle, who effortlessly tests the limits of his instrument.
Also featured was a piece composed by her pianist, Melford, called “The Kitchen” which was very reminiscent of spending hours in a kitchen using different items to make a percussive sound. As a surprise, Miller invited her friend, vocalist Rachel Friedman to join her troupe and she delighted us with her smoky rendition of the Jessica Lurie song, “Once” – a beautiful ballad sung with great gusto.
While the evening was full of great jazz music and wonderful stories by Miller, the program could have benefited from being in a larger venue, as the tight, un-air-conditioned room in the mansion was a bit of a distraction, and the mix of her group sounded a bit swallowed.
Seeing something as unique as Boom Tic Boom was a welcome treat to enjoy a homegrown talent returning to where she got her start.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
Allison Miller’s website.