New York-based pianist Andy Milne has performed around the world and collaborated with numerous notable artists including Ravi Coltrane, Cassandra Wilson, Steve Coleman and Joe Lovano. But his ties to Montgomery County are special: Three albums with his group, Dapp Theory, were recorded in Brookeville.
Milne has not been in the metropolitan area in a while, but said he has “spent a lot of time there over the years doing records.” So, when he was approached to do a solo piano performance for Sandy Spring Museum’s Jazz in the Round series, he agreed. “Even though it is a quick trip, it’s nice to come through,” he said.
“My goal with Jazz in the Round has been to bring cutting-edge artists from around the world to our little backyard and give them a place to have a musical conversation with an intimate audience,” said Bronson Hoover, museum board member and event organizer. “Andy Milne has been a favorite of mine for years. I’m still pinching myself that he agreed to join our series.”
For his first time performing at the venue, Milne envisions the show as more of an intimate social gathering among friends, with the music as the focal point rather than a concert with a planned out set list.
Guests may hear pieces from his solo piano jazz record “Dreams and False Alarms,” but he is also considering doing pieces he composed and recorded for seven documentary films directed by William Shatner. “A lot of the material was solo piano, and it was conceived as a solo piano conversation with dialogue,” Milne said. “I am probably going to play a combination of some originals, some folk music, some standards and maybe some tunes from jazz composers. …Often when I play solo piano, I tend to explore pieces of everything I do with different projects but scaled down.”
Milne has quite the busy schedule these days. During the past few weeks, he has been mixing a new album for Dapp Theory and five guest musicians, which will combine both music and spoken word elements. One focus for the project was researching and exploring diagnostic principals of homeopathic healing and applying them to writing. He estimates the album, a commission from Chamber Music America, will be out in the summer.
“I would say it is a little different than most Dapp Theory recordings,” he said. “The concept behind it is different from most of my records. It came from a lot of research and studying–how to take these principles and apply them to their emotional characterization, if you will.”
His next musical project is the animated film “Strings and Serpents,” set for release in 2018. The music features Milne and pianist Benoit Delbecq as a duo as well as a Japanese duo playing the kotos. The 30-minute film will have no dialogue or subtitles.
Milne is also the assistant director at The School of Improvisational Music and an adjunct professor at New York University, the New School University and Columbia University. “Once I started (teaching), I realized I enjoy doing it. And I think what’s wonderful about it is it requires you to find innovative ways of describing what you do or just enabling other people to get closer to what it is they are trying to do,” he said.
Inspired by the works Thelonious Monk, Art Tatum, Herbie Nichols, Bela Bartok, Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder, Milne said he is driven by wanting to be better and noting benchmarks of artists that have come before that inspire him to “seek out opportunities that can enable me to be stronger and be more inventive and more true and sincere,” he said. Personal experience is a jumping-off point for certain musical journeys, while teachers and mentors provide inspiration as well.
In between putting out Dapp Theory’s new album, the movie’s music and teaching, when can audiences expect a possible solo recording? “So, probably somewhere in the middle of next year, I will probably explore doing a trio recording,” Milne said, adding, “I might do a solo piano recording.” He is also “sort of toying around with doing an anthology– taking things from different periods and different projects, some released, some unreleased, and releasing an anthology of different works which wouldn’t necessarily be new recordings or new music per se, but a new configuration of presenting material.”
But before all that, Milne will return to an area he loves for a one-night show at the museum.
Jazz in the Round featuring Andy Milne will begin at 8 p.m. Sept. 30 in the Sandy Spring Museum, 17901 Bentley Road, Sandy Spring. For tickets, $25, visit www.sandyspringmuseum.org/jazz or call 301-774-0022.