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Allison Miller on the beat


Allison Miller
  • Allison Miller

Boom Tic Boom is a drum riff, a bass drum "boom" followed by a snare rim hit, then another bass boom. It's also the name of a jazz album by drummer Allison Miller (who's known for playing more than jazz). And it's the name of her stellar quartet, coming to Arcata Sunday evening for a Redwood Jazz Alliance show in the Kate Buchanan Room.

The lineup: Berkeley-based pianist Myra Melford, who has played several other RJA dates with various bands. Humboldt native Jenny Scheinman, a jazz fiddler who leads her own band and has collaborated with a wide range of musicians, including Bill Frisell, Bruce Cockburn, Bono, Metallica and Norah Jones. And Bassist Todd Sickafoose, who has worked as Miller's rhythm partner frequently, most notably backing righteous indie folk icon Ani DiFranco. 

Raised in the Washington, D.C., area, Miller started drumming early. Even before she was out of high school she was identified by Downbeat magazine as an "up and coming drummer."

"At the time I wasn't thinking about leading a band," said Miller, calling from home base in New York City. "I just knew I wanted to be involved in jazz. I was thinking about people I wanted to play with, and that I wanted to be a studio musician, a hired gun. Since then, as we know, life is never what you expect it be, and my wants have changed. I've gone in other directions for years."

She did end up playing with jazz greats, organist Lonnie Smith and saxophonist Marty Ehrlich among them, but a gig backing Natalie Merchant led her in another direction: She became known as a skilled vocalist's drummer and spent years backing Ani DiFranco. In recent years, she's been striving to split her time between playing behind others and playing her own music -- jazz. 

"You know, improvisation is why I fell in love with music and why I play. So if I'm not doing improvisation, I don't feel really fulfilled -- I don't feel like a spiritually happy person," she said. "And I'm happy with this band -- I try not to do any shows without this exact lineup: Jenny, Myra and Todd. I really like calling it a band, because it is." 

The Redwood Jazz Alliance presents Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom on Sunday, Oct. 30, at 8 p.m. in HSU's Kate Buchanan Room. Tickets are $15, $10 for students and seniors, available at Wildberries, Wildwood Music, People's Records and The Works or at (Advance tickets are recommended.) Miller and company will also lead a free public workshop on Monday, Oct. 31, at 10 a.m. in HSU's Music 131. For more of our interview with Miller see the event page at


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