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The Musical DNA Of Dominic Miller



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In this exclusive Jazz Guitar Today video podcast, Bob Bakert talks to guitarist Dominic Miller about his inspiration, touring with Sting, and his latest album, ‘Vagabond”.

Bob Bakert: Dominic Miller is all about authenticity.  His music, composition, guitar playing, and life radiate the qualities I like most about humans.  He is genuine, dedicated, incredibly smart, sensitive, inspiring, and indeed powerful.  His music is full of emotion and connection. We at Jazz Guitar Today bring you, Dominic Miller, with great pride.

Drawn to acoustic guitar…

DM: The nylon string guitar – I’ve always been drawn to that sound. I was born and I was brought up in Argentina, where we were exposed to a lot of Latin American – South American music, from, Venezuela, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina. And primarily, most importantly is the music of Brazil. My guitar hero as I was growing up, of course, other than Hendrix, was Baden Powell, a really great Brazilian guitar player who had that folk-indigenous kind of Brazilian music pre-Bossa Nova – then he got in on the Bossa Nova movement. And then, of course, Antônio Carlos Jobim and all that. So, nylon string guitar has always been like, wow, to me – this is the thing.

This is what I wanted to do – be an acoustic guitarist or a nylon string guitarist. Because in South America, people don’t play steel string guitars – right? Not really… Every house in South America has a nylon string guitar somewhere – it’s part of life. You pick up a guitar and you play a samba! In Argentina, I could play Sambas and Bossa Novas before I could play Neil Young or Van Morrison songs.

The latest project from Dominic…

Dominic Miller has been called “a great, serene storyteller” by Peter Ruedi in the Swiss weekly Weltwoche, andVagabond, the guitarist’s third recording for ECM, might prove his most poetic tale to date. After Dominic’s debut Silent Light (2017), which captured the guitarist in solo performances with occasional percussive injections by Miles Bould, Absinthe (2019) found him expand his subtle instrumental sketches in a quintet lineup. For Vagabond the guitarist has partnered up with Ziv Ravitz on drums and Swedish pianist Jacob Karlzon, while long-time collaborator Nicolas Fiszman returns on bass. Continuing in the collective spirit of his last album, here Dominic finds new ways to present his distinct approach in deeply felt quartet interplay.

Ziv Ravitz, Dominic Miller, Jacob Karlzon, Nicholas Fiszman –
Photo by Christoph Bombart / ECM Records

Things I’ve learned from Sting…

DM: Even though it sounds freeform and like we’re all kind of improvising, which we are, the actual structure is strict songwriting. So, that’s one thing I’ve taken from working with songwriters, particularly Sting, is how to construct songs and how to embrace lateral thought. You know, like if something is off-kilter, don’t ignore it. Just see what’s possible with this chord change. If it sounds wrong, it’s what you played. So look, what are the possibilities with it – don’t discard anything that’s dissonant. Sting is really into dissonance or lateral thought. You look at his songwriting, the way a song like, “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” – using the whole tone scale against kind of a melody. These types of things, those principles – I’ve taken with me. And just to finish up, the other principle I’ve taken from him is to surround yourself with really good musicians who have an incredibly good instinct. It’s all about instinct with these guys. And of course, they’re well-versed in many different, genres and styles. But I need people with instinct. And if there is one thing I’ve learned from Sting, the better you make them look, the better you look.

The DNA of the record collection…

I’m really interested in this idea of color contrast, with chords it’s usually the harmony that comes before the melody. For me, songwriters usually come up with the backing track and then they do the lyrics and the melody. A lot of songwriters work like that. I don’t know where it comes from, but I guess it just comes from your record collection. Because that’s the only thing that’s really original about me, about you, and about all your listeners – the one thing that is unique and original is their record collection. Because nobody has the same record collection. I can guarantee you that. And, that is your fingerprint and that’s your DNA.

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