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Sammy Miller and the Congregation to take Vilar stage Thursday

Expect boundless energy, inclusive ideals and catchy songwriting in latest Underground Sound Series show

Sammy Miller and the Congregation perform at the Vilar Performing Arts Center at Beaver Creek on Thursday, Oct. 21, as part of the Underground Sound Series.
Vail Valley Foundation/Courtesy photo

Independently, the seven members of Sammy Miller and the Congregation have performed and recorded with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Lady Gaga, Jason Mraz and Beyonce. Together, Sammy Miller and the Congregation live performances are a mix between a comedy troupe and a dazzling rock band that plays a re-imagined strain of jazz.

The Los Angeles Times describes Sammy Miller and the Congregation as “joyful jazz with lots of laughs.” The SF Weekly describes their performances as “feel-good party jazz, harking back to the ’20s and ’30s. It’s brassy, stomp your feet and dance music, and it’s got the raw, uplifting vibe of a New Orleans street parade.”

This show is for you if you also like Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Trombone Shorty, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Motet, Galactic, Tower of Power and Average White Band.



Sammy Miller and the Congregation perform at the Vilar Performing Arts Center at Beaver Creek on Thursday as part of the Underground Sound Series — known as the “love for the locals” series. Individual tickets are $30, or part of the Underground Sound or VIP Access passes. Visit VilarPAC.org for tickets and more information about upcoming performances at the VPAC.

Since the band’s inception in 2014, Sammy Miller and the Congregation have played nonstop around the world. Highlights include performances at Umbria Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The White House, The Kennedy Center, Prokofiev Concert Hall in Russia and the Newport Jazz Festival. The seven-piece band has also garnered critical acclaim from outlets including Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, Jazz Journal and other publications. Miller, the drummer and bandleader, was nominated for a Grammy along with Alphonso Horne (trumpet) for Best Instrumental Jazz Album on the record “My Favorite Things.”



For Miller, it all started at age 5 when he started playing drums with his five siblings. When he got a little older, he discovered an all-consuming love of comedy and jazz. As a child, he’d go to the library and check out 30 CDs at a time, alphabetically exploring the jazz section from Ahmad Jamal to Zoot Sims. He also became obsessed with comedians such as Chris Rock, Lenny Bruce and Bobby Slayton.

“I’ve always loved the risk takers in entertainment — the people who would rather get it real than right,” Miller says on the band’s website.

At 11 years old, Miller was cast on Mad TV. At 18, he moved from Los Angeles to New York City, and at age 21, he started studying for his master’s in jazz at Juilliard.

“When I was at Juilliard, I realized jazz couldn’t just live in a conservatory vacuum. It needed to provide its initial function of being an expansive creative outlet where the rules are there for you to break and improvisation went beyond notes and into an experience,” Miller says.

Miller soon found a cadre of like-minded jazz students — outliers who were fiercely individual in their instruments but also craved a manner of expression beyond the solo performances.

“We all went to Juilliard and have these credentials, but we didn’t like the insular feeling of the jazz scene,” Miller says.

Miller and his band started descending on venues around New York City where jazz was not played.

Their live shows made them a word-of-mouth buzz band with boundless energy, inclusive ideals, catchy songwriting and a revue style presentation. The septet expanded its reach through adopting the rock band philosophy of touring endlessly in a van to build a fan base.

Sammy Miller and the Congregation features Miller on drums and vocals; Alphonso Horne on trumpet; Ben Flocks on tenor sax; Sam Crittenden on trombone; David Linard on piano; Corbin Jones on bass; and Molly Miller on guitar.

“I’m proud of it,” Miller says of the band’s nine-song debut album, “Leaving Egypt,” which was cut in four 16-hour days at the legendary United Studios. “I’m eager to embark on our mission to bring joy to people’s lives through music.”

IF YOU GO …

What: Sammy Miller and the Congregation

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21

Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek

Cost: $30, or part of the Underground Sound or VIP Access passes.

More information: Visit VilarPAC.org/sammy-miller-and-the-congregation.


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