On Friday, Apr. 29, Carnegie Hall presents in concert drummer/composer Allison Miller in a special night of original music showcasing her band, Boom Tic Boom. With the recent release of her latest full-length studio album, “Otis Was a Polar Bear,” Miller launches her new tour with violinist Jenny Scheinman, cornet player Kirk Knuffke, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, upright bassist Todd Sickafoose, and pianist Myra Melfords. The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. Concert goers may enjoy food and beverage before the show in the Mainstage Lounge. The Lounge, hosted by Greenbrier Technologies & Electric, will be open from 6:45-7:25 p.m. and will reopen at intermission. Tickets for the Lounge may be purchased for $5 in advance, or at the door.
The most poignant music is often inspired by watershed events in an artist’s life, and few occasions are more transformative than the arrival of one’s first child. For Miller that life-affirming experience provided the seed that led to the creation of her new album. The birth of Miller’s (and partner Rachel’s) daughter Josie found the NYC-based drummer reordering her priorities and the very way in which she approached her art. As Miller settled into the parenting groove, and resumed playing and composing, she quickly realized that her art was naturally evolving to reflect the path her life had taken. Josie is the muse for her latest works, and Miller’s compositions chart an inspirited soundtrack to the beginnings of a new life chapter.
“I have so much patience now,” Miller says. “There’s something very humbling about being a parent. I feel joyful and grateful and I’m writing and playing with this fresh perspective, this new world of creativity has just been hatched. It’s like I’m doing it all for the first time.” That joy and revived enthusiasm is truly evident on “Otis Was a Polar Bear,” the title of which owes itself to an imagined dream of Miller’s dog, a tiny, 12-pound Havanese. “The last record was about such intense hardship and pain. This record is the other side of all that – it’s the beauty that comes after a storm.”
Every track on the new album tells a compelling story. The opener “Fuster” was influenced by the Cuban artist José Fuster. It started as a silly made-up melody sung to Josie in the first weeks of her life, but coalesced into a full-fledged piece after a few months of not being able to shake it from the drummer’s head. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, “Staten Island” was inspired by the senseless and tragic killing of Eric Garner by the hands of the Staten Island police. “I sat down at the piano feeling hopeless and filled with rage. This is what came out,” Miller says. “There are a lot of quick changes and energetic shifts, and the song never resolves.”
Among the other highlights, “Shimmer” was penned in the Philippines, as was “Pig In a Sidecar” – a song whose melody never repeats and builds to a crescendo. “The Listener” was written for a music-obsessed friend of Miller’s who died suddenly, while “Hoarding the Pod” came about while Miller – in what she describes as an over-caffeinated state – was recording with Natalie Merchant. The album’s closer “Lullaby For Cookie” is a lullaby written before her daughter was born (she was nicknamed Cookie while still in the womb).
This engagement of Boom Tic Boom is made possible through the Jazz Touring Network program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.