With Absinthe, his second release for ECM, guitarist Dominic Miller has created an album colored by a distinct atmosphere. “The first thing that came to me before I wrote any tunes was the title,” he says. “Living in the South of France, I am fascinated by Impressionism. Sharp light and witchy mistrals, combined with strong alcohol and intense hangovers must have driven some of these artists toward insanity. Skies that are green, faces blue, perspective distorted.” While Miller’s ECM debut, Silent Light, emphasized intimacy in solo and duo settings, Absinthe finds the guitarist fronting a quintet that brings his ever-lyrical compositions to textured life.
Miller, switching between nylon- and steel-string acoustic guitars, has a key harmonic-melodic foil in the bandoneon of Santiago Arias. The vivid presence at the drum kit is Manu Katché, an ECM veteran and for years a colleague with Miller in the band of Sting (whom the guitarist has accompanied now for three decades). Mike Lindup’s keyboard tones add a ghostly air to such highlights as the title track, while bassist Nicholas Fiszman roots the sound. As for Miller, JazzTimes described him as a guitarist who “milks every note, thriving on the pauses between them and whispery effects of fingers sliding across strings,” while Stereophile agreed, declaring that “his ability to express emotion through a guitar is amazing to hear.”