Absinthe

Dominic Miller

EN / DE
With Absinthe, his second release for ECM, guitarist Dominic Miller has created an album colored by a distinct atmosphere. “The first thing that came to me before I wrote any tunes was the title,” he says. “Living in the South of France, I am fascinated by Impressionism. Sharp light and witchy mistrals, combined with strong alcohol and intense hangovers must have driven some of these artists toward insanity. Skies that are green, faces blue, perspective distorted.” While Miller’s ECM debut, Silent Light, emphasized intimacy in solo and duo settings, Absinthe finds the guitarist fronting a quintet that brings his ever-lyrical compositions to textured life. Miller, switching between nylon- and steel-string acoustic guitars, has a key harmonic-melodic foil in the bandoneon of Santiago Arias. The vivid presence at the drum kit is Manu Katché, an ECM veteran and for years a colleague with Miller in the band of Sting (whom the guitarist has accompanied now for three decades). Mike Lindup’s keyboard tones add a ghostly air to such highlights as the title track, while bassist Nicholas Fiszman roots the sound. As for Miller, JazzTimes described him as a guitarist who “milks every note, thriving on the pauses between them and whispery effects of fingers sliding across strings,” while Stereophile agreed, declaring that “his ability to express emotion through a guitar is amazing to hear.”
Mit Absinthe, seiner zweiten Veröffentlichung für ECM, hat Gitarrist Dominic Miller ein Album geschaffen, das von einer ganz speziellen Atmosphäre geprägt ist. “Das erste, was mir bevor ich irgendwelche Songs schrieb, kam, war der Titel”, sagt er. “Ich lebe in Südfrankreich und bin fasziniert vom Impressionismus. Scharfe, helle und hexenhafte Mistralwinde, kombiniert mit starkem Alkohol und intensivem Kater müssen einige dieser Künstler in den Wahnsinn getrieben haben. Grüne Himmel, blaue Gesichter, verzerrte Perspektiven.”
Während Millers ECM-Debüt Silent Light den Schwerpunkt auf Solo- und Duo-Settings legte, hat er für Absinthe ein Quintett versammelt, das seine lyrischen Kompositionen in ein strukturiertes Setting bringt. Miller, der zwischen Nylon- und Stahlsaiten-Akustikgitarren wechselt, hat im Bandoneon von Santiago Arias ein wichtiges harmonisch-melodisches Spiegelbild gefunden. Manu Katché, der neben Miller jahrelang Mitglied in der Band von Sting gewesen ist, bringt am Schlagzeug lebhafte Präsenz ein. Mike Lindups Keyboardtöne können eine geisterhafte Note verleihen, während der Bassist Nicholas Fiszman den Sound des Ensembles erdet.
Featured Artists Recorded

February 2018, Studios La Buissonne, Pernes les Fontaines

Original Release Date

01.03.2019

  • 1Absinthe
    (Dominic Miller)
    05:28
  • 2Mixed Blessing
    (Dominic Miller)
    04:48
  • 3Verveine
    (Dominic Miller)
    01:45
  • 4La Petite Reine
    (Dominic Miller)
    02:14
  • 5Christiania
    (Dominic Miller)
    04:30
  • 6Étude
    (Dominic Miller)
    05:42
  • 7Bicycle
    (Dominic Miller)
    03:52
  • 8Ombu
    (Dominic Miller)
    03:41
  • 9Ténèbres
    (Dominic Miller)
    04:23
  • 10Saint Vincent
    (Dominic Miller)
    05:27
Allen voran ist hier der Bandoneon-Virtuose und Meisterschüler Dino Saluzzis, Santiago Arias, zu nennen, der nicht nur solistisch brilliert, sondern den Stücken auch mit seinem breiten Spektrum an Klangfarben eine ganz besondere Atmosphäre verleiht, die perfekt mit den von Dominic Miller aus den abwechselnd mit Stahl- und Nylonsaiten bespannten Akustikgitarren gezauberten Melodien harmoniert. Mitunter verblüffend sind auch die Beiträge des als Gründungsmitglied der britischen Funk-Pop-Band Level 42 bekannt gewordenen Keyboarders Mike Lindup, der sein Instrumentarium nach allen Regeln der Kunst aber stets unaufdringlich und songdienlich ausschöpft. Der gleichermaßen sensible wie schlagkräftig agierende Drummer Manu Katché und der belgische Bassist Nicolas Fiszman, dessen Spiel und Intonation Dominic Miller mit der ‚Vornehmheit eines großen Wales‘ vergleicht, bilden das ideale Rhythmusgespann für diese gleichzeitig fein gesponnenen wie auch energievoll wirkenden musikalischen Kleinode. […] Tatsächlich hat sich Dominic Miller spätestens mit ‚Absinthe‘ von seinem Langzeit-Chef erfolgreich abgenabelt und spielt in einer eigenen Kategorie.
Peter Füßl, Kultur
 
Man hört sofort, dass Miller es gewohnt ist, in Songs zu denken. Es gibt keinen überflüssigen Ton und auf Soli wird weitestgehend verzichtet. Das Besondere an dieser CD ist das Ineinandergreifen der Intentionen der Beteiligten. Es ist weder Schreien noch Flüstern, sondern es scheint, als würden die Musiker ihre Melodien lediglich im Denken manifestieren. Melodien werden gehaucht, es wird viel mehr weggelassen als gesagt. Selbst der sonst eher straighte Drummer Manu Katché streicht nur ganz zart über Felle und Ecken. Miller orientiert sich an impressionistischen Malern, und das macht er gut.
Wolf Kampmann, Eclipsed
 
Sous l’égide d’un des plus grand producteur l’histoire du jazz, Manfred Eicher, et via les doigts de fée de l’ingénieur du son Gérard de Haro, sa musique n’a peut-être jamais aussi bien respiré. […] Car ce cocktail dosé de jazz apaisé, de tango diphane et de pop rêveuse est unique en son genre.
Frédéric Goaty, Jazz Magazine
 
Was kommt denn hier alles zusammen! Die Eleganz akustischer Gitarrenmusik, der Charme des Folk, die Kraft des Rock, die Disziplin und Freiheit des Jazz, filigrane Rhythmen, großartige Kontraste, virtuoses Können – das sind nur einige der Ingredienzen auf Dominic Millers neuem Album ‚Absinthe‘. [….] Allerfeinste Tontechnik sorgt zudem dafür, dass man jede Nuance dieser unterhaltsamen, künstlerisch anspruchsvollen zehn Stücke genießen kann.
Werner Stiefele, Audio
 
Einfach ist die Musik auf seinem zweiten Album ‚Absinthe‘, das der Gitarrist für ECM aufnahm, ganz sicher nicht. Aber sie wirkt so mühelos, so unverkrampft und dadurch beruhigend. Das ist die große Kunst, die zu verwirklichen tatsächlich schwierig ist. Eben nicht in manischer Hingabe seine ganze Virtuosität in Form von Schnelligkeit auszuspielen, eben nicht die Harmonien endlos zu schichten und immer wieder zu wechseln, bis die Musik verstopft klingt und nicht mehr atmen kann. Zurückhaltung, Stille, klare aber knappe Strukturen, das ist eine Herangehensweise, die Dominic Miller liegt. Trotzdem liebt er das Risiko, die Herausforderung, ja auch das Radikale. Aber nicht in Form von Lautstärke und überbordender Komplexität. […] Musik, die aus dem Alltag einen Festtag werden lässt, ruhig und unaufgeregt. Ein Album für die Ewigkeit.
Jörg Konrad, Kultkomplott
 
Lyrisch, sphärisch verspielt und verträumt kommen Millers zehn Kompositionen daher. Eine besondere Note verleiht Bandoneonist Santiago Arias aus Buenos Aires. Er bildet einen schönen Kontrast zu Millers Gitarrenspiel, das schlicht und einfach Klasse hat.
Silvano Luca Gerosa, Jazz’n’more
 
Guitarist and composer Miller delivers power and subtlety in equal measure. Abetted by producer Manfred Eicher’s canny guidance and ECM’s flawless sound and studio presence, Miller draws on inspiration from painters of France’s impressionist period. […]There is no suggestion of drunkenness or insanity in Miller’s music. Rather, he manages with his quintet partners to create music that, for all its exoticism, is stimulating and relaxing. […] When this album showed up, I intended to give it a quick listen. The quick listen became five times in a row.
Doug Ramsey, Riff Tides
 
The album opens with the title tune: Miller’s acoustic guitar and drummer Manu Katche’s swirling cymbals set the scene for the entry of Santiago Arias’ bandoneon, the primary melodic instrument in the music. It is a significant new timbral color in the ensemble, as well as a nod to the avowed Argentinian influence in Miller’s music. ‘Mixed Blessing’ includes a synthesizer solo from keyboardist Mike Lindup, a contrasting sound that is favored throughout the set; although on ‘Étude’ his piano playing is a foundational element. […] Miller has an expanded musical concept to go with the larger band. The tunes are still compact statements, but make use of the instrumental forces for greater timbral contrast. And he is a generous band leader as well: while his guitar is at the center of the arrangements, all of the players are given a chance to shine. It will be interesting to see where he goes next.
Mark Sullivan, All about Jazz
 
Manu Katché on drums adds beef to the mix which includes the gorgeously evocative bandoneon of Santiago Arias. Miller has plenty of personality up front, the bass of Nicolas Fiszman laidback enough to give him room while Mike Lindup’s spacey keyboards do not intrude. Recorded in a French studio a year ago tracks are kept quite short, at just under six minutes tops, all the tunes are Miller’s and they fall into what I’d call Metheny pastoral, nothing too twee or sweet but certainly provided with enough melodicism to tug the heartstrings. All in all? A really pleasant album that grows on every play and shows Miller’s writing as much as his superlative playing touch in the very best light.
Stephen Graham, Marlbank
 
Now living in the South of France, Miller’s music takes on a distinctive Impressionism, with the ambience of the region and the friendship of the musicians involved, flowing colourfully through this engaging recording. […] ‘Absinthe’ captures a certain mood, one of breezy, sunny, contemplative days in the rolling countryside. Or perhaps a mood of kinship, where old friends share alcoholic drinks, revelling in tall tales and times passed. An album to chill-out to, and one that will make you feel at home as soon as you hear it.
Mike Gates, UK Vibe
 
Here is a light, gorgeous, and impressionistically floating new album from guitarist Dominic Miller, assisted by bandoneon player Santiago Arias, keyboardist Mike Lineup, bassist Nicholas Fiszman, and drummer Manu Katché. The comparison with impressionism isn’t mine–it’s from an interview with Miller himself, who lives in the south of France and whose compositions for this album were significantly influenced by his thoughts about the region’s ‘sharp and witchy mistrals, combined with strong alcohol and intense hangovers, (which) must have driven some of these artists toward insanity: skies that are green, faces blue, perspective distorted.’ But if that language leads you to expect music of lurid color and exaggerated expression (à la Toulouse-Lautrec), think more in terms of Seurat or Monet: pastel hues beautifully wielded, soft surfaces masking tight structure. This is an utterly gorgeous album.
Rick Anderson, CD-Hotlist
 
It’s an unconventional combo, but it works well – the range of timbres and harmonies is extremely agreeable. There’s an Argentinian tinge to much of the music, though think Gotan Project, rather than Astor Piazzolla, as there is a groove through many of the tunes, not just from Katché’s inventive percussion but the rhythmic qualities of the ensemble playing. On an initial hearing the CD appeared light and easy, bar some disjunct improv in the track ‘Ombu’, but this is misleading. I think that the limpid clarity of the production (by Manfred Eicher himself), the pleasant atmosphere, the sweetness of tone and the downright prettiness of the guitar and bandoneon sound just gives that impression. As is often the case with music which can be perceived as light or suave, like bossa nova, for example, on a closer listen, the complexity of the composition and the beauty of the ensemble playing comes through. From the first track ‘Absinthe’, where the bandoneon, after a precise harmonious intro, starts sliding about into little patches of dissonance, and the spectral notes from the synthesiser twist around against a backdrop of precise strings and strangely colourful cymbal sounds, the listener is entranced. By the final track, ‘Saint Vincent’ (presumably a reference to Van Gogh rather than the countless catholic saints, or indeed the American singer/songwriter of the same name) the sonic palette has been fully explored. Miller’s guitar playing is wonderful throughout, lyrical, deft and harmonious. ‘Saint Vincent’ builds in layers of colour and light to a Pat Metheny-esque crescendo and then disappears as if blown away by the mistral.
Jane Mann, London Jazz News
 
Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere. That’s what guitarist Dominic Miller’s ‘Absinthe’ is all about. But its not some wispy, tentative conception of atmospherics. Rather it’s the intentional use of sound, space and time to evoke a strong sense of place or emotion. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this collection, the follow-up to Miller’s ECM leader debut ‘Silent Light’, but ‘Absinthe’ blew away all preconceptions. Sense of space and place are palpable, as Miller’s acoustic guitars evoke most often his current home in the sunny and languid south of France, and Santiago Arias’s bandoneon pulls the proceedings across the Atlantic with his evocations of non-tango Argentinian indigenous tunes, elastic melodic structures and often unexpected harmonics. Add to that the rhythmic foundation of Manu Katché’s inventive percussion and the rootedness of bassist Nicholas Fiszman, and the subtle keyboards of Mike Lindup for a set that is revelatory.
Gary Whitehouse, Green Man Review
 
The album is his tribute to the Impressionist painters – ‘Living in the South of France, I am fascinated by Impressionism,’ he says — but the most distinctive voice on ‘Absinthe’ is not French but Argentinean. Santiago Arias plays the bandoneón, a type of concertina popular in Argentina, where Miller spent the first ten years of his life. […] The ten tracks, all by Miller, have a narrative, evocative flow […] Miller recorded ‘Absinthe’ at La Buissonne, a studio in Pernes-les-Fontaines, less than 40 miles north of Marseilles, with ECM founder Manfred Eicher producing. The sound, wonderfully rich and spacious, lets each instrument register cleanly and in great detail. Miller and Katché both play in Sting’s touring band, and this recording lets you feel their intuitive rapport. Miller’s compositions give these musicians the chance to create music that is challenging and, at the same time, accessible and enjoyable. I’ve played it constantly over the last couple of weeks
Joseph Taylor, Soundstage Access
 
Dominic Miller’s ‘Absinthe’ has a chamber-music sensibility to it that lends itself quite well to being taken seriously as quite akin to what we like to think of as ‘classical’ music. I truly believe that many folks who listen primarily to classical music would find this recording involving and enjoyable. […] ‘Absinthe’ reveals him not only as a fine guitarist, but also an excellent composer. You might expect an album headed by a guitarist to feature blistering guitar solos, but that is not the case here.  The accent instead is on subtle interplay among the assembled musicians. […] The net result of this collaborative musical interplay is an album that truly does sound like a form of chamber music, a jazz album that lovers of classical music might well discover to be an unexpected delight should they be adventurous enough to give it an audition.
Karl W. Nehring, Classical Candour
With Absinthe, guitarist Dominic Miller has created an album colored by a distinct atmosphere. “The first thing that came to me before I wrote any tunes was the title,” he writes in his liner note. “Living in the South of France, I am fascinated by Impressionism. Sharp light and witchy mistrals, combined with strong alcohol and intense hangovers must have driven some of these artists toward insanity. Skies that are green, faces blue, perspective distorted.” While Miller’s ECM debut, Silent Light, emphasized solo and duo settings, Absinthe finds the guitarist fronting a quintet that brings his lyrical compositions to textured life. Miller, switching between nylon- and steel-string acoustic guitars, has found a key harmonic-melodic foil in the bandoneon of Santiago Arias. The vivid presence at the drum kit is Manu Katché, for years a member alongside Miller in the band of Sting. Mike Lindup’s keyboard tones can glow or add a ghostly air (as they do in such highlights as the title track), while bassist Nicholas Fiszman roots the ensemble sound. As for Miller, JazzTimes has described him as a guitarist who “milks every note, thriving on the pauses between them and whispery effects of fingers sliding across strings.”
Not only was Absinthe conceived in the South of France, that’s also where Miller and band recorded the album, working with Manfred Eicher in the studio of La Buissonne, in Pernes-les-Fontaines. The ambience was ideal, Miller says: “It’s a great atmosphere in which to work. And I love collaborating with Manfred – he’s a real producer. I think back to the inspiring authenticity of those records he made with Egberto Gismonti. They were so important to me…
“For my two ECM albums, and especially this new one, my initial idea of a tune can be like a simple selfie,” Miller explains. “But once we’re done working on it together, the piece becomes this rich photographic still, with all the light and shade of life in it. Manfred helps bring out the essence of the music, often pushing us out of our comfort zones in the process. But I’m up for it – we rethought, redesigned and reinterpreted every tune in the studio. I’ve made about 250 pop and rock records over the years, and that’s often a process about achieving so-called perfection. But Manfred isn’t after this kind of perfection.”
Born in Argentina to an American father and Irish mother, Miller was raised in the U.S. from age 10 and then educated there and in England. The guitarist’s international mindset has only been deepened through decades touring the globe, working with the likes of Paul Simon, The Chieftains, Plácido Domingo and, most often, Sting. Miller has long been known as the latter’s right-hand man on guitar – and co-writer of “Shape of My Heart,” among others. “I’ve been influenced by Sting’s lateral sense of harmony and how he forms songs,” the guitarist says. “I try to do the same by creating a narrative with instrumental music, which I treat and arrange as songs, with verses, choruses, bridges. I’ve absorbed a lot from him about concept and arrangement, as well concision in telling a story.”
Miller heard Katché’s rhythmic/coloristic touch in his ear for decades, while Fiszman plays in the guitarist’s current live group. The simpatico match of drums and bass here is highlighted by their exchanges in “Ombu,” a track named for a tree in Argentina with vast roots. Miller only recently discovered Arias, having encountered him in Buenos Aires. “I was on tour there and I went out on a night off to see a jam featuring some top local musicians. They were all pointing out this young bandoneon player. Witnessing Santiago play – this acoustic, non-tango indigenous Argentinean music, mixed with European influences – I felt a spark. I wrote the music of Absinthe with the timbre of his instrument and his sense of space in mind.”
Arias’s bandoneon plays a vital role throughout the album, whether atmospherically in such pieces as the shadowy “Ténèbres” or as a soloistic voice in “Saint Vincent.” The title of the latter song refers not to Van Gogh but to the late Cameroonian guitarist Vincent Nguini, a longtime collaborator with Paul Simon and something of a mentor figure for Miller. “Vincent had such a special ‘time feel,’ as drummers like to talk about,” he says. “With the way he used time, you could hear that it was him from just a few notes.”
The title track of Absinthe begins with Miller’s hands fingering the nylon strings of a small-body guitar with his characteristic “artisanal precision,” as the Irish Times put it. After two minutes of melodic development with just guitar and bandoneon, Katché’s beat comes in strikingly, boosted by Fiszman’s deep bass. The piece immediately takes on the drama of a story, with Lindup’s synthesizer line whirring subtly through the arrangement like a specter, adding something otherworldly to the narrative. “I wanted the synth to add a disrupting element, like an absinthe-induced wooziness,” Miller explains. “I’ve known Mike for years and trust implicitly what he can bring to my music, whether it’s a touch of off-kilter synth or flowing piano, as on ‘Etude’ and ‘Verveine.’ The latter song, by the way, is named for a kind of herbal tea they have in France that I like. It’s supposedly good for hangovers, so I guess the old painters might’ve used it as a calming antidote after the visions of absinthe.”
YouTube

By loading the video, you agree to YouTube's privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video