One of the most dazzling guitar virtuosos in the region, Sam Miltich brings a trio into the Dunsmore Room on Tuesday, August 9 at 7 pm, his debut in the intimate listening room of Crooners Lounge in Fridley. Know for his swinging chops at the helm of the Clearwater Hot Club, Miltich guarantees a hot swinging evening with bassist Gary Raynor and drummer Jay Epstein.
Music, like the surrounding forests of Northern Minnesota, was just a normal part of family life for young Sam Miltich. Dad Matthew Miltich taught English at the area community college and played electric bass. At age 7, Sam discovered an Erroll Garner recording in the family collection and commandeered it, declaring Garner to be a “genius.” Soon he was learning to play piano, but a fire that destroyed the family home forced him to find another outlet. At age thirteen he picked up the guitar and taught himself to play bluegrass and folk. His life-defining moment came at fifteen, watching the Woody Allen film Sweet and Lowdown about the life and music of Django Reinhardt. The music for him was magic, “the fire and passion, the East European country sound….Everything I loved rolled into one,” he noted in an interview on National Public Radio. How can you learn more about the gypsy jazz style of Django living 20 miles from the nearest town in rural Minnesota? Sam ordered instructional videos by Paul Meiling and began intense study on his own, practicing eight hours per day. Seeking a playing partner, he convinced his father to switch to upright bass. And seeking more in-depth instruction, he convinced his father to drive cross country for a lesson with Meiling, who invited the teenager to sit in with the famed Hot Club of San Francisco. He began touring with the Robin Nolan Trio when he was 18; toured for two years with the Hot Club of San Francisco, and founded the Clearwater Hot Club in 2003. In 2010, he launched the Big Dipper Jazz Band, a six-piece traditional ensemble.
Sam cites influences beyond Django, including such diverse figures as Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, Andres Segovia, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Maurice Ravel, Stevie Wonder, Stochelo Rosenberg, and Bireli Lagrene. His interests extend to Brazilian choro, French musette, Eastern European tamburitza, and other forms of traditional folk music, a bit of blue grass, but mastering gypsy jazz is his mission. “It’s so hard…I have to practice and listen all the time… but it is my favorite music so it doesn’t bother me that I am doing that.” And his hard work has brought him to the attention of like-minded musicians from coast to coast as well as overseas. In addition to touring with the Hot Club of San Francisco, Sam has played in Holland, Germany and Japan; toured with David Grisman and the Stephane Wremble Trio; played at the Lincoln Center in New York City in a concert honoring Django with international musicians; and has shared the stage and bill with the Ferre’ Brothers, Angelo DeBarre, Dorado Schmitt, Fapy Lafertin, Ludovic Beier, Samson Schmitt, and Ken Peplowski.
Sam currently hosts the weekly Jazz at the VFW in Grand Rapids, MN, on Wednesdays with a rotating cast of musicians, and plays regularly with the Clearwater Hot Club. In addition to promoting his bands, Sam is always seeking out new musical connections. His recent musical collaborators have included popular vocalist Charmin Michelle, mandolin virtuoso Peter Ostroushko, legendary Twin Cities saxophonist Dave Karr, jazz and classical guitarist Joan Griffith, and Dutch jazz violinist Tim Kliphuis. He’s also recorded with the Hot Club of San Francisco, Connie Evingson, Patrick Harrison, and Dave Karr in addition to four releases with the Clearwater Hot Club. With Tim Kliphuis, he recently released Duets.
A Minnesota resident since 1977, bassist Gary Raynor toured with Sammy Davis Jr., performed with the Count Basie Band, Rupert’s Orchestra, Richie Cole, Claudio Roditi, Herb Ellis, Mark Murphy, and Clark Terry, and has appeared with dozens of Broadway touring shows, including the first presentation of The Lion King. A long-time performer with Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band on Prairie Home Companion, Raynor is featured on Janet Jackson’s hit single “Again” and the original Rio Nido album, I Like to Riff. Locally Gary has performed with Debbie Duncan, Bruce Henry, Dave Karr, Manfredo Fest, Laura Caviani, Pete Whitman, Reuben Ristrom, Tim Sparks, Phil Aaron, the JazzMN Orchestra, and more. He recently helped launch a band of Prairie Home Companion alums, New Shoes, performing at Vieux Carré.
Of trapset master Jay Epstein, Cadence Magazine’s David Lewis noted that “his dazzling cymbal and snare work extends the lineage of Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette.” In addition to his long run with the Phil Aaron Trio, Jay has more recently toured with Richie Cole and Five by Design. These days, Jay keeps busy with Red Planet, Framework, Counterclockwise, Firebell, Bronkow Vision, Off the Map, Dean Granros’ Tall Tales, the Chris Lomheim Trio, and in support of a long list of area vocalists and instrumentalists. Jay released Long Ago on Igmod Records, has recorded with Bill Carrothers and Chris Lomheim, and appears on each of Gordon Johnson’s Trios, among a long list of sideman credits.
The Dunsmore Room at Crooners Lounge is located at 6161 Highway 65 NE (Central Av), just north of I-694 in Fridley, about 15 minutes north of downtown Minneapolis. This is a “listening room” designed for intimate music. Tickets ($10 show only, $35 dinner +show) available via Brown Paper Tickets, online at www.croonersloungemn.com. Sam Miltich performs again on August 10 with Connie Evingson ‘s “Jazz in the Lounge” at the Minneapolis Woman’s Club, 6 pm.