PKO Records presents Two For The Road, a breathtaking
CD featuring two of Detroit's finest jazz musicians vocalist Jeannine
Miller and her husband saxophonist, flutist, arranger, composer, educator
Russ Miller. Two For The Road is the realization of this
musical couple's long-time dream to produce a recording together that
showcases their respective talents. Russ Miller and Jeannine Miller
are recognized throughout Southeast Michigan for their individual musical
accomplishments; Russ Miller is highly regarded as a magnificent jazz
alto saxophonist and Jeannine Miller is well loved for her warm and
intimate vocal stylings. When they join forces they lift each other
up to even greater musical heights.
| Two for
The Road features Jeannine's delicious vocals and Russ' outstanding
jazz playing and arrangements for various size ensembles of familiar standards
and some more obscure material from Henry Mancini, Sergio Mendez, Harold
Arlen and Maurice Ravel. Russ and Jeannine Miller are seasoned, veteran
jazz masters; they have worked over two years to produce this excellent
CD. And we, the listeners, are the happy beneficiaries of their extraordinary
talents and efforts.
The title Two For The Road is an appropriate one as this
project has been a journey of discovery and musical growth for both
Russ and Jeannine. Below, they describe their vision for this CD, the
paths they chose, the CD program and they discuss the creative process
and the final product.
Russ: I wanted to wrap Jeannine's singing in a variety
of textures, colors and styles taking into consideration the timbre
of her voice, her vocal style and the kind of tunes she prefers to sing.
I also wished to test my abilities as an arranger and performer. What
was attempted (and hopefully achieved) was to make a recording of good
music done well. The target audience is the mature listener who appreciates
It is altogether fitting and proper to recognize the individual musicians
who played on this record. And so, I will do so now:
The Big Band:
Saxes: Pete Kahn, Keith Kaminski, Paul Onachuck, Ben Janssen and Mark
Trombones: Ron Kischuck, Ed Gooch, Bill Barbour
Trumpets: Dave Jennings, Bob Hawkins, Kevin Welling
Piano: Bill Gaff
Bass: Kurt Krahnke
Drums: Dave Taylor
The String Section:
Violin: Charlotte Merkerson, Victoria Haltom, Sharon Reum, Lorrie Gunn,
Laura Roelofs, William Starnes
Viola: Linda Tolias
Cello: Karen Wingert
Bass: Kurt Krahnke
Timbales: Pete Siers
Congas: Al DiBlasio
Piano: Brian DiBlasio
Bass: Kurt Krahnke
Piano: Vince Shandor and Bill Gaff
Bass: Paul Keller
Drums: Dave Taylor and Sean Dobbins
Additional help from:
Clarinet: Greg Koltyk
Percussion: Dennis Sheridan
Trumpet: Dwight Adams
Jeannine: In the past, I have played as a saxophonist and flutist
in orchestras, shows, big bands and smaller classical ensembles. These
days, I usually perform as a vocalist with my long time musical partner,
pianist Vince Shandor. Two for The Road is my very first
opportunity to perform and record as a vocalist with larger ensembles.
My personal approach to Two For The Road was to develop
and explore my own interpretations of these songs that I love and often
perform on gigs with duos, trios or quartets. I am thrilled to have
created this CD with my husband, Russ Miller. Russ not only supported
me throughout this recording but challenged me musically in various
ways. His clever and thoughtful arrangements blew me away! Russ managed
to put his own unique stamp on each arrangement and that personal touch
makes this CD so special to me. And his playing is exquisite! We are
grateful to our huge team of 32 musicians who contributed in hundreds
of ways to make this project something really beautiful. They provided
not only fantastic accompaniment and musicianship but also inspiration,
love and fun. Thanks, also to our excellent recording engineer David
Lau and to our friend and wonderful graphic artist Mark Berger. Their
expertise helped us produce the album that we have dreamed of making
for a long time. Special thanks to Paul Keller for supporting and directing
our efforts on this project from beginning to end. Paul not only contributed
his time and musical talent but also offered his extensive experience
in the recording industry as well as assistance from his record company
PKO Records to showcase our CD. His dedication and passion mean so much
It's All Right With Me
Russ: We wanted to start the CD off with some good energy.
The opener features some happy bebop over a Cole Porter classic.
Jeannine: This one is really fun! There's lots of space
for the musician's to flex their chops. In the studio, we rehearsed
this tune once and then recorded it in one take!
Close Your Eyes
Russ: Many musicians perform this song at a brisk tempo
- especially at "blowin' sessions". As I became familiar with
the lyrics my perspective changed completely and I realized that the
true characteristics of this song - tenderness and intimacy - demanded
a softer, subtler treatment. With this in mind, Close Your Eyes
is the perfect vehicle for woodwinds.
Jeannine: Russ' unique arrangement using woodwinds and
trumpet fits this tune perfectly. Close Your Eyes is one of my
favorite tunes on this CD. I perform it often on gigs. I wanted my performance
to bring out the tenderness of the lyrics. The effect that we were going
for was that of someone singing a lullabye softly into your ear. Trumpeter
Dwight Adams is awesome. His seductive playing draws the listener in
with a soulful blanket of sound.
So Many Stars
Russ: Sergio Mendez's classic bossa nova deserves a lush
treatment. Flute, brass and percussion help to create a warm background.
Jeannine: This is a such a beautiful song and Russ' gorgeous
treatment compliments my voice so well. The subtle use of the low brass
creates a rich, buttery texture that makes it easy for me to sing whatever
Russ: Secret Love is one of two instrumentals on
the CD. On this one I wanted to use the flute in an up-tempo, higher
energy context, and to make use of the flute/piano duet.
Jeannine: This is Russ' hip spin on a well known tune
that will delight folks with its unusual twists and turns. The piano
and flute duet dance lightly over the form, then engage in their individual
statements and finally join forces to trade with the drums. I just love
it! Pianist Bill Gaff, bassist Paul Keller and drummer Sean Dobbins
nailed this one!
All Or Nothing At All
Russ: Slightly funky, swingin' and shoutin' with a big
band. Jeannine really gets into the groove of this arrangement and sings
with a terrific feeling!
Jeannine: I got excited about singing this song when I
heard the arrangement that Russ wrote. I enjoyed the challenge of adapting
my style to fit the power of the big band sound. What a thrill!
Russ: This is a complete reharmonization of an old chestnut
scored for string orchestra. Through research, I found it has been recorded
by more than 2,000 different artists. With her impeccable sense of timing
and keen ear for pitch and delivery, Jeannine made this unusual arrangement
into something special.
Jeannine: Russ wrote a stunning chart for string orchestra
that gives me goose bumps. In preparation, I studied recorded versions
of this song by Placido Domingo, Nana Mouskouri, Chago Rodrigo and Dean
I'm All Smiles
Russ: This is an interesting waltz from the 1965 Broadway
production of The Yearling that is not frequently done by other
jazz artists. It provides a nice opportunity to feature Jeannine in
a jazz quartet setting - her native habitat.
Jeannine: Vince Shandor and our trio create an elegant
feeling reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi and 1960s San Francisco. This
tune has some unusual melodic and harmonic motion but leads naturally
from one tone center to another. I'm all smiles as I recall the fun
we had recording this song.
You Don't Know What Love Is
Russ: This arrangement was inspired by the recordings
of Orchesta Revé and the Cuban danson style. With latin percusion,
trombones and violins accompanying, take off your jacket, grab your
partner and dance in the street.
Jeannine: This arrangement is a collaboration between
Russ and I. We changed the groove from a ballad to a sexy rhumba. Many
thanks to Los Gatos, an Ann Arbor-based latin jazz quintet that has
recorded several CDs for PKO Records. Los Gatos adds an authentic Cuban
feel to this track. You Don't Know What Love Is smolders with
passion and unrequited love.
Right As The Rain
Russ: This Harold Arlen piece is a gem. Another
perfect vehicle for Jeannine's voice and the quartet.
Jeannine: In the studio at the last minute, our pianist
Vince Shandor suggested that we record Right As The Rain. We
needed this kind of tune for the CD and Vince and I do this song regularly
on duo gigs so it seemed appropriate. Vince plays a great solo on this
track. We have been a team for 13 years and he has taught me so much.
Vince has introduced me to dozens of cool songs that I otherwise would
have overlooked. This obscure piece has become one of my all time favorites.
The Lamp Is Low
Russ: Lamp Is Low is inspired by Ravel's Pavane
pour une Infanta defunté. This piece, with its sultry melodic
line and suggestive lyrics lends itself nicely to a samba treatment.
Jeannine: I love to sing the slower lyrics superimposed
over the energetic accompaniment. The long meter form gives the listener
time to understand the meaning the song.
Russ: Also called Slow Hot Wind, Lujon is pure
Mancini. This is the second of two instrumental tracks on this CD. Flute
with strings and latin percussion seemed to capture the essence of the
piece without copying the original. Again, Los Gatos adds their Cuban
flavor to the mix.
Jeannine: I admire Russ for challenging himself musically.
He has always played the "good" notes, the "smart"
notes, the "best" notes in his solos but he is pushing himself
even further on this CD. I think Russ sounds fantastic and I know the
listener will agree with me when they hear Two For The Road.
The Best Thing For You Would Be Me
Russ: This Paul Keller "spontaneous arrangement"
sounded so unpretentious and the group was having so much fun, it just
had to be included in the lineup.
Jeannine: The feeling here was very relaxed. It came off
like we were at a jam session just enjoying ourselves and making music
Two For The Road
Russ: The title cut is another Henry Mancini classic.
It's an intimate closing to this recording designed to leave the listener
Jeannine: I love the way this CD turned out and Two
For The Road feels like the perfect song to close this album that
means so much to Russ and me. After many hours spent researching, arranging,
scheduling, rehearsing, recording and mixing this CD, it is nice to
kick back at the end of it and sing a quiet song of reflection that
celebrates how far we've come and acknowledges how far we have yet to