From jazz to “Epic Fantasy”

Still of Saxophonist, composer and bandleader Joe Miller, while preforming live with his band. (Submitted: Joe Miller Music)

“Epic Fantasy” is a performance where the worlds of jazz and classical music collide, promising an unforgettable journey of melodies.

“I create music that brings joy,” said saxophonist and conductor Joel Miller.

On Oct. 4, MusicUNB’s concert series presented Miller and his upcoming concert, “Epic Fantasy.” This concert showcased an orchestra of jazz and classical musicians in his project, aptly named UNSTOPPABLE.

Miller said improvisation and rhythm are very unique in jazz, which differs from classical music. He added that is why it was a very interesting experience to come together and play.

“This concert is the beginning of something.”

To him, it’s a long journey for musicians to develop a connection and improvise together in their music.

Acoustic and electric bass player Jason Flores and drummer John Bailey have been building chemistry by playing with Miller once a week over a year.

“We are like one person in a way,” said Miller.

He added he sees improvisation as a conversation he has with band members and all the musicians that joined the band for this concert are at the beginning of it.

“In Epic Fantasy there’s not a lot of improvisation. But I would like it to be more,” he said.

Miller, originally from Sackville, N.B., grew up in a household filled with music. It was “life-changing” for him when saxophone player Don Palmer brought his group to Mount Allison University and invited him to play with the band.

“It was sort of like a religious conversion, where I just instantly wanted that,” said Miller.

From that moment, he got into the jazz world through his saxophone. He said he started listening to jazz musicians and their unique voices.

“I started with an exploration of the sound. It wasn’t written music, it was all through my ear.”

Miller said the pandemic shifted his reason for creating music. At the beginning, one of his priorities was to create “something that is amazing or it’s never done before,” but now he aims to make music that “moves people.”

During that same time, he started reflecting on his music.

“It’s a little frustrating,” said Miller. “I don’t think people listen to recorded music in the same way anymore.”

He said he “poured his heart and soul” into his albums, but the results were not what he expected. He added once the pandemic regulations ended, he decided to shift to live music.

His favorite song of the program was “Wait For It”. He said with the title he wanted to describe the feeling listeners have before the music resumes after a pause.

“[It] musically portrays that feeling in the title.”

He said he composed the song almost two years ago, so he still considers the possibility of adding new ideas or making some changes to it.

“Be yourself through your art,” said Miller. It was the best advice he received when he was starting out as a musician.