Acclaimed Drummer Allison Miller Releases New Album Celebrating Our Nation's Waterways "Rivers In Our Veins"

Article Contributed by JP Cutler Media | Published on Tuesday, September 19, 2023

A lauded drummer who's mastered a vast array of musical settings -- such as guesting on late night TV, keeping time for some of today's most beloved singer-songwriters (such as Brandi Carlile), and being a renowned bandleader/composer in her own right -- Allison Miller is always at the heart of the music. Her latest album, Rivers In Our Veins (Royal Potato Family, Release Date: October 6, 2023, ALBUM PRE-ORDER), is a song cycle embracing the concept of flow and renewal, and dedicated to our nation's crucial rivers, watersheds and the organizations devoted to reviving and protecting them. Commissioned by Mid Atlantic Arts Organization and Lake Placid Center for the Arts, Rivers In Our Veins is the studio manifestation from an ambitious live multimedia production with original music composed by Miller featuring an all-star cast of improvisers, tap and contemporary dancers, and real-time video projection by Todd Winkler. Three of Miller's singles will be released in advance of the full album, including "Hudson" on July 20, "Of Two Rivers (Part 2)" on August 16, "Fierce" on September 19, 2023, and her Brooklyn, NY album release concert on Saturday, November 25 will be at Roulette (TOUR DATES).

Rivers In Our Veins spotlights Miller alongside longtime collaborators, including violinist Jenny Scheinman, Ben Goldberg on contra-alto and Bb clarinets, pianist Carmen Staaf, trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Todd Sickafoose, and tap dancers Claudia Rahardjanoto, Michelle Dorrance, Elizabeth Burke, Byron Tittle, and Orlando Hernández. Rivers In Our Veins draws inspiration from what acclaimed writer Rebecca Solnit calls "human geography." It's a perspective that encompasses indigenous communities who depend on rivers and the vital role waterways play for survival throughout America's often torrid history of forced migration for marginalized people, as well as the conservation movement dedicated to reclaiming historic rivers from pollution. Miller culls inspiration from the cultural histories of five East Coast rivers that have been polluted nearly beyond repair through industrialism and commercialism, she focuses on the James, Delaware, Potomac, Hudson, and Susquehanna.

From the start, Miller built Rivers around "the sound, tone and approach" of Carmen Staaf, the deft pianist in her and Scheinman's quartet Parlour Game. "Carmen was the musician I was connecting with the most while writing Rivers. She would bring my compositional ideas to life. Once the compositions began to blossom, I knew Jenny Scheinman would be a perfect addition, ushering in an American folk sound that evokes the history of culture and migration along American rivers. Todd Sickafoose was the next natural collaborator, with his huge sound and elastic sense of time. These are all master improvisational storytellers, which is vital to this aural exploration of rivers."

Like Scheinman and Sickafoose, Goldberg is a member of Miller's Boom Tic Boom, a near-legendary improvisor whose liquid Bb clarinet and gravelly ol'-man-river contra-alto provide textures both aqueous and gritty. Trumpeter Jason Palmer is a more recent addition to Miller's world, but proves to be a foundational element whose expansive palette shapes the music's sonic scope.

Miller always cast a wide creative net so it's no surprise she's leading such a multifarious project. Her career includes extensive work with Toshi Reagon, Ani DiFranco, Natalie Merchant, Brandi Carlile, and Erin McKeown. She's also forged creative alliances with pianist Myra Melford, guitarist Wendy Eisenberg, bassist Scott Colley, and saxophonist Dayna Stephens. She toured and recorded widely with Hammond B-3 legend Dr. Lonnie Smith and bassist Ben Allison, and composed music for Showtime's cult series, The L Word. On top of releasing more than a dozen albums as a leader or co-leader, she's the engine powering the acclaimed Blue Note recording group Artemis.

Rivers In Our Veins brings together many of Miller's primary passions. The production offers festivity and opportunity. "What's your local river?" she said. "What can you do for it? This project is about raising awareness and consciousness of our local waterways. It's about highlighting the grassroots conservation organizations who are working tirelessly to clean up our rivers. Not only are they making environmental policy change at the state and federal level, they are literally wading through the rivers picking up trash. For every live performance, we team up with local river keeper organizations, providing them an opportunity to widen their network and raise money for their efforts. Rivers is about essential conservation and celebrating diversity and biodiversity. It's about water and music, which is to say, life."

For detailed song descriptions for the compositions featured on Rivers In Our Veins, please click the following link for a PDF of a Track-By-Track One Sheet.