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Maci Miller - Nine
The number “nine” is significant in several ways for Philadelphia vocalist Maci Miller and the number of her releases is not one of them. Numerologically, nine represents spiritual growth and kinetic self-awareness. The recording is made with nine musicians, many from the Philadelphia area, including, in addition to Miller and pianist/producer Aaron Graves, saxophonists Larry McKenna and Victor North, bassist Mike Boone, drummers Byron Landham, Josh Orlando, and Leon Jordan, Sr. Special guest, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, rounds out the performers, not a Philadelphian, but christened one.
Nine comprises nine songs: three standards and six original compositions by Miller and Graves. Miller sings Chick Corea’s “High Wire” furnished with lyrics by Tony Cohan. She boldly provides lyrics to Mulgrew Miller’s “Firm Roots.” But it is Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness Of You,” about which the remainder of the recording orbits. Channeling Billie Holiday and Blossom Dearie shot through with Dinah Washington, Miller conjures a distilled elegance, tinctured with the brine of regret. Pelt’s accompaniment and solo are studies of empathy with the singer and lyrics.
If a musical theme exists in Nine, it is one of the breezy Latin humidity of South America propelled by the drumming of Byron Landham, Leon Jordan, Sr., and Josh Orlando and the timekeeping of bassist Mike Boone. Keyboardist Aaron Graves also produces the recording and shares arrangement duties with Miller. Their efforts are rewarded with the warm glow of the recording’s sonic environment.
Miller’s voice is a delightfully curious one. It is playfully sensual in its laconic coquettishness, giving Miller a deliciously knowing tone, one revealing the singer is aware she has a spirited bluff in on the listener. Miller loves singing and her treatment of these bright originals and staid standards is evidence of the depth and breadth of her feeling for the music.