(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) — Bandleader Allison Miller brings her eclectic, funky jazz group Boom Tic Boom!, featuring a veritable all-star lineup of downtown jazz talent, to Club B10 at MASS MoCA on Saturday, May 7. The band includes violinist Jenny Scheinman, pianist Myra Melford, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, bassist Todd Sickafoose, and cornetist Kirk Knuffke – all leaders of their own projects and legends in their own right.
Together, on the just-released album, “Otis Was a Polar Bear,” they have made one of the most adventurous musical recordings of the year, leaping across genres, swapping rhythms and melodies with dizzying ingenuity, and simply expanding the notion of jazz and art music in the 21st century.
Berkshire audiences may recall Miller — whom the Guardian called “a drummer of fierce clarity and bold imagination” — from several dynamic performances last summer, including her participation in Toshi Reagon’s tribute to Michael Jackson at MASS MoCA, and as part of Reagon’s band in the latter’s collaboration with Michelle Dorrance/Dorrance Dance at Jacob’s Pillow, which featured a stunning improvisational duet between Miller and tap dancer Michelle Dorrance.
Named a “Rising Star Drummer” and a “Top 20 Jazz Drummer” by jazz magazine Downbeat, Allison Miller and her band have received wide acclaim for maintaining deep roots in the jazz tradition while simultaneously engaging with a diverse range of musical influences, including folk, rock, blues, and country. This eclectic mix of influences produces modern jazz peppered with melodic ballads, spunky lyrics, and Miller’s signature rhythmic force. The joyful, engaging, and deeply imaginative sound is prone to improvisation and underscored by Miller’s charismatic and playful stage presence. A strong believer in the power of collaboration, Miller’s close connections with her bandmates harness the power of all group members’ skills and ideas, resulting in dynamic, passionate, and mesmerizing music that is filled with surprises at every turn.
The New Yorker raves about Miller, saying, “her craftiness as a percussionist is met by her ingenuity as a composer and group conceptualist.” And the London Observer notes, “Young, muss-haired drummer, Allison Miller, defies physics and bends time
Through music, Miller strives to break down the gender barriers that still exist in the “boys clubs” of jazz and percussion. After being told “You don’t play like a girl” countless times, she triumphantly told the Huffington Post, “This is what girls play like. People hear with their eyes: They see a ‘girl’ and are surprised when they hear the power and prowess that they associate with ‘boys.’ By getting onstage and throwing down while looking the way I do, I am breaking stereotypes.”
Growing up near Washington, DC, Miller was inspired at age 11 by the legendary Miles Davis to play the drums and pursue a career as a jazz musician. In 1996, she moved to New York City to study with Michael Carvin and Lenny White and to begin her career as a drummer, composer, producer, and teacher.
Miller has appeared in NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert series, and Boom Tic Boom!’s self-titled debut was named among the “Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2010” by the Los Angeles Times. The band’s 2013 release, “No Morphine, No Lilies,” made Downbeat and Jazz Journalists Association’s “Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2013” lists. “Otis Was a Polar Bear” was released by Royal Potato Family last month.
Miller has collaborated with artists including Bill Frisell, Steve Bernstein, Toshi Reagon, Brandi Carlile, Natalie Merchant, and Ani DiFranco (Boom Tic Boom member Todd Sickafoose was DiFranco’s longtime bassist). When not performing, Miller teaches drumming and holds master classes both in the U.S. and internationally.
Jenny Scheinman is a violinist, singer, and writer of songs with and without words. She grew up on a homestead in Northern California and has been performing since she was a teenager. She has worked extensively with some of the most innovative jazz artists in the world such as Bill Frisell, Jason Moran, Nels Cline, and Marc Ribot and consistently tops the Downbeat Jazz Critics Polls. She has also toured and recorded with numerous American songwriting legends such as Lucinda Williams, Bruce Cockburn, Rodney Crowell, Lou Reed and Ani DiFranco.
Pianist, composer and Guggenheim fellow Myra Melford grew up outside of Chicago. She moved to the east coast in 1982 and began performing in New York City’s thriving Downtown scene, making her recorded debut as a leader in 1990; she has since released more than twenty albums as a leader or co-leader and appeared on more than 40 releases as a side-person. She has been honored numerous times in DownBeat’s Critics Poll since 1991 and was nominated by the Jazz Journalists Association as Pianist of the Year in 2008 and 2009 and Composer of the Year in 2004.
Clarinetist Ben Goldberg participated in the klezmer revival and was a founder of the groundbreaking klezmer-jazz fusion group, New Klezmer Trio. In addition to his own projects and compositions, Goldberg has collaborated with a who’s who of downtown jazz artists, including John Zorn, Myra Melford, Zeena Parkins, Don Byron, Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, Tin Hat, Charlie Hunter, Vijay Iyer, Roswell Rudd and Wayne Horvitz.
Cornetist and composer Kirk Knuffke is the winner of Downbeat Magazine’s “Rising Star” critics poll for 2015. A recipient of the Jerome Foundation composers grant, Knuffke has released 15 recordings as a leader or co-leader. Matt Wilson, Butch Morris, Uri Caine, Michael Formanek and many more have hired him as a sideman for over 60 recordings. Knuffke has worked with a host of incredible musicians including Roswell Rudd, William Parker, Myra Melford, Steve Swell, Marshall Allen, Tootie Heath, and Billy Hart.
Best known for his work with Ani DiFranco, Todd Sickafoose has also been a member of the bands of Jenny Scheinman, Scott Amendola, Adam Levy, and Noe Venable. He has also performed and recorded with Don Byron, Trey Anastasio, Nels Cline, Ron Miles, Myra Melford, Skerik, Stanton Moore, Bobby Previte, Will Bernard, Jessica Lurie, Erin McKeown, Gina Leishman, Carla Bozulich, Etienne de Rocher, James Carney, Erik Deutsch, Shane Endsley, Tony Furtado, Darol Anger, Andrew Bird, Art Hirahara and John Zorn.
Dinner will be available from Lickety Split before and during the show. A full bar serves Berkshire Brewing Company beers and Berkshire Mountain Distillery spirits. Tickets are $10 for students, $16 in advance, $22 day of, and $28 preferred. Tickets for all events are available through the MASS MoCA box office located on Marshall Street in North Adams, open 11am to 5pm every day except Tuesdays through June 24, 2016. Beginning June 25, the box office is open 10am to 6pm every day, with extended evening hours to 7pm on Thursdays through Saturdays. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 x1 during box office hours or purchased online at at MASS MoCA. All events are held rain or shine.