DOUBLING HIS PLEASURE
by Geraldine Wyckoff - Gambit Weekly - April 18, 2000)
"I went from a one-piece band to a two-piece band," Trumpeter, Charlie
Miller says of his
latest release, Fonk Horn - Rhythms from New Orleans. Miller's previous
outing, Peace Horn
was an entirely solo project, but this new disc has him teaming up
with drummer Freddy
Staelhe, a long time friend and fellow Dr. John cohort. This hardly
is your ordinary duo,
however, because Miller and Staehle aren't your everyday type of musicians.
Miller is a free spirited trumpet player - a musical philosopher, some
might say, who is
more concerned with the music's essence and inner life, than the shine
on a finished product.
He has a kindred spirit in Staehle, who shares these musical views,
which shine through
on this wondefully unusual album.
For his part, Staehle uses more than just a kit. His large, self-constructed,
is called the "Winger Tree". He says it's a melodic percussion instrument
that has grown
and evolved over the past 20 years. It's name comes from the image
of a flying tree and
it's concept from the buddist understanding of the tree of life.
Miller considers Fonk Horn to be his New Orleans album, an attempt to
spirit of the music he remembers from his childhood. That sense of
innocence and delight
rings out from his trumpet's whimsical slurs and flutters on the opener,
"A Closer Strut
With Thee". Staehle performs a simple shuffle step to Miller's arrangement
classic tune. Later Staehle puts on his tap shoes, elaborating on the
rhythm, with the
shorter and geared-up version, "A Closer Romp With Thee".
"It's about freedom from the barriers that exist in most human experiences,
and in most
arts, and in most music." Miller says of the feeling he wanted to create
on the album.
"Freedom from the framework of predicting exactly what's going to happen
in the next
second. When we made this record, we had no arrangements. I just went
over to this
person's house, set my mics up, counted off some stuff, and we
started playing - just trying to capture this vibe.
Staehle agrees: "It was very spontaneous, but it usually is like that
with good musicians
like Charlie. I didn't expect that two people - just drums and trumpet
- could produce
a sound that is commercial enough for people to appreciate, that they
don't miss a
There is a brass band parade second-lining down the street on two of
"New Orleans" and "Fonk Horn." His trumpet beckons those behind screen
join the festivities. On the latter track, we can hear the band passing
by, perhaps turning
the block as it's music fades away. ...
Miller displays his vocal talents on Fonk Horn for the first time ...
... on classic "Didn't He Ramble" which evokes the spirit of
Dr. John. "Because we all
came up and learned this music at the same time, there's an aesthetic
[between us]" says Miller. "It's hard to tell where one of us starts
and the other ends
when it comes to this music. ...
While we were playing, I just grabbed hold of the moment that we were
in each time,"
says Miller, "Like riding the waves in the lake. There were surprises
moment to moment
but Freddy and I were both going with them. We'd give in to them."
Staehle agrees, pointing to Fonk Horn as an example of what can happen
talent takes chances. "The album is very representative of New Orleans
because they are very talented and creative and will try different
things that normal
people won't try. That's what Charlie allowed to happen."
There is a warning label on Fonk Horn: "Please turn up your volume.
This CD has
slightly lower volume than you might expect - for artistry and groove
sentiment is typically Miller, who refused to buy into today's industry
"As soft as a note is or as loud as a note is, I wanted to keep the
groove in the record.
Unique - Click On CD's to Hear 'Em !
I didn't want to sacrifice that"
Listen To (or order) "PeaceHorn" or "Fonk Horn" CD
Email to Charlie
Return to Home Page