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Steve Million - What I Meant to Say

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    Posted: 13 Dec 2021 at 8:30pm
Released August 20, 2021 on Origin Records
NOTE: A late addition to our roster, an excellent project we hope you'll check out!

WHAT I MEANT TO SAY from esteemed pianist and composer STEVE MILLION is an homage to the enduring relationships of the old friends and musical compatriots who have come together after 30 years to make music once again. Million, who is well-known on the Chicago-area jazz scene, has produced eight previous CDs, which include Million to One (1995), Thanks a Million (1997), and Truth Is (1999), all on Palmetto Records. His other projects are a trio album, Poetic Necessities (2002) on the BluJazz label, a solo album, Remembering the Way Home (2008) on Origin Records, and his previous project, Jazz Words, which he released concurrently with WHAT I MEANT TO SAY in August of 2021. Reviewer Jonathan Widran said, “Jazz Words is, besides being an exquisitely played and arranged project, a collection of uncommon heartfelt openness.”
Back in the late 1970s, Million played with a band call Three Friends, which was popular in Kansas City, MO, at the time. One night, the band was playing a benefit for an artist’s loft when guitarist STEVE CARDENAS joined them for the first time. The band had been playing all around the city and had many arrangements which they played on gigs, but that night they decided to perform a completely improvised set. It was magical evening, and the new Four Friends band was born.
Not long after the benefit, Cardenas called Million and wanted to form a band that played all original tunes. They re-formed the band and brought on board drummer RON VINCENT and Greg Whitfield (later Gerald Spaits) on bass. The band was very influenced by the John Abercrombie Quartet, and each band member contributed original tunes. The new version of Four Friends wound up getting many gigs around KC and central Missouri in 1980 and 1981, but Million and Vincent had decided it was time to expand their horizons, so the two of them moved to New York City in 1981. Million says, “Leaving Kansas City ended this band’s run, but it dwelled in our musical hearts for years. We always talked about getting this band back together and documenting what we did at the time. Well, that time is now. We recorded this new record in November 2019 right before Thanksgiving in New York.” With the addition of JOHN SIMS on bass, they had the opportunity to play again and enjoy each other’s company.
Million moved to Chicago in 1988, the year he was a semifinalist in the internationally renowned Thelonious Monk Piano Competition. His playing has been very influenced by Thelonious Monk, and he formed a two-keyboard band called Monk’s Dream. He and multi-instrumentalist Joe "Guido" Welsh later created the humor-filled band Thelonious Moog. Today, Million performs in a piano duo, with esteemed pianist Jeremy Kahn, called Double Monk.
Million has always performed with top players. Steve Cardenas was a longstanding member of the Paul Motian Electric Bebop Band, Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra, and the Steve Swallow Quintet. He is currently a member of Ben Allison and Think Free, John Patitucci Electric Guitar Quartet. Ron Vincent is a veteran of the New York City jazz scene. Working often as a sideman, Ron has recorded for labels such as GRP, Concord, and Palmetto records, the latter where he has been producer as well as co-producer for a number of projects.

Ron Vincent was a member of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet and Mulligan’s Re-Birth of the Cool Tentet from 1989 until Mulligan’s passing in 1996. He recorded four CDs with Mulligan and has also recorded with Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Randy Brecker, Bob Brookmeyer, Bill Charlap, John Lewis, and Slide Hampton to name a few. John Sims has a diverse musical background. He has performed with Ron McCurdy, Victor Goines, the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Marianne Solivan, and Joel Frahm, among many others.
The music on WHAT I MEANT TO SAY harkens back to their original concepts for the music. All the tunes were composed by Million, several of which had not been performed since those early days. Million actually had to listen to tapes to recreate some of the music, because he did not have any charts from that period. A few other tunes, like “Open the Book,” “My Explanation,” “Missing Page,” ”Situations,“ and “Blue Lizard” have made it onto other recordings Millions released over the years.
Million wrote “Open the Book” in 1981 for his daughter Peige on her 1st birthday. The tune originally appeared on his solo piano release, Remembering the Way Home. He wrote “Old Earl” in the mid-70s and titled it after a friend who was a master refinisher. When he first met him, he asked his name, the friend replied, “Just call me Old Earl.” It stuck with Million.
“What I Meant to Say” is of more recent vintage, but Million felt that it fit the recording enough to become the title track. “The Company” is about a group of artists that Million was part of in the mid-70s. The group was formed to salvage and document the contents of an old church that they purchased in 1976 in Quincy, IL.
Million wrote “Situations” for Arnold Young, a Kansas City drummer that Million considers to be one of the most creative musicians and artists on the planet. “My Explanation” is one of Million’s oldest tunes. He has a fond memory of playing it once with Randy Brecker, who turned to Million after he announced the tune and said, “and it better be a good one!”
 “Waltz for Mr. Abercrombie” is an homage to John Abercrombie. Million originally recorded the tune on Thanks a Million. He wrote “Missing Page” while he was in NYC and missing his daughter Peige. “Azusa Dreams” is another composition of more recent vintage that he wrote for his wife, visual artist Azusa Nakazawa. Four Friends used to open their sets with “Blue Lizard.” It is a blues tune written in ¾ time.
Journalist, music critic, and radio hose Neil Tesser perhaps sums up the music on WHAT I MEANT TO SAY the best, “Million doesn’t rely on fireworks or flash; the impact of his work comes in a steady accretion of ideas over the course of an improvisation and the gorgeous details of his interaction with the rhythm section.”
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WHAT I MEANT TO SAY was released on August 20, 2021 and is available at Originarts.com and everywhere.
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