A lauded drummer who’s mastered a vast array of musical settings—from guesting on late night TV, keeping time for some of today’s most beloved singer-songwriters, 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, is a 12-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 of an ambitious live multimedia production with original music composed by Miller featuring a deeply telepathic cast of improvisers, as well as, tap and contemporary dancers.
Rivers In Our Veins spotlights Allison 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, Allison 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.”