Jon Miller got his first taste of live, organ-powered jazz 20 years ago while living in Philadelphia and he “really grew to love it.”
Now the Victoria jazz drummer is finally incorporating that sound into his own band.
“It’s a really unique sound and it’s sort of a sub-category of jazz I’ve always been really drawn to, I think, because it’s a little more hard-hitting. I think it suits my personality on the drums,” said Miller, who is coming off of a three-year stint with the Victoria Jazz Orchestra.
“We kind of associate the ’60s or ’70s with this particular style of jazz, but there are a lot of contemporary players who are doing some groundbreaking things in the area as well. So it’s just a very interesting sub-genre that I’m interested in exploring more.”
Those explorations began recently for Miller, when Vancouver-born organist Tony Genge moved to the province’s capital.
“When we connected and started playing a couple years ago it just seemed like a great opportunity,” Miller said.
With its new member, the Jon Miller Quartet – Miller, Genge, guitarist Rob Cheramy and saxophonist Monik Nordine – is showcasing its new sound on a brief tour of Vancouver Island. The outing will see the group perform at Nanaimo’s Lighthouse Bistro for the first time on Friday, Jan. 12.
While the group is minus one bassist, Genge will fill in in that department, playing the low notes with his left hand and by foot pedals, which Miller said makes the quartet sound like a five-piece band.
With the addition of the organ, Miller said the group’s repertoire has expanded to include soul-influenced jazz compositions and “standards in the organ-jazz vein.”
Miller said it took a while to “wrap [his] head around” writing for the organ now that he has another “melodic voice” with which to work. He said he envisions the organ lending support to Cheramy’s guitar solos.
He said one of the new song’s he’s written with the organ in mind, A Letter to Yourself, features call-and-response interplay with the organ and guitar and is partly inspired by the ’70s jazz fusion band Steely Dan.
Miller said the quartet has been making “home recordings” and plans to follow up the group’s previous record, 2015’s 3 Days in Winter, with an album to better represents its current direction.
WHAT’S ON … The Jon Miller Quartet performs at the Lighthouse Bistro on Friday, Jan. 12 at 7:30 p.m. General admission is $20, student tickets are $10.