Born in Argentina to an American father and Irish mother, guitarist Dominic Miller was raised in the U.S. from age 10 and then educated there and in England. Now he lives in France, though he has toured the globe for the past three decades. Aptly, Silent Light – Miller’s ECM debut, featuring him solo and with percussion accompaniment – has a very international feel, with the Latin influence strong in such pieces as “Baden” (dedicated to Brazilian guitarist-composer Baden Powell). “Le Pont” has an early 20th-century Parisian air, while “Valium” evokes Celtic tunes in the vein of Bert Jansch and “Fields of Gold” is a hushed instrumental take on one of Sting’s best-known ballads. Miller has long been known as Sting’s right-hand man on guitar – and co-writer of the worldwide hit “Shape of My Heart,” among others. Miller has also worked with the likes of Paul Simon, The Chieftains and Plácido Domingo. The guitarist’s playing has prompted praise from Simon, who points out, in a liner note to the album, that Miller “has a beautiful touch, with a fragrance of jazz and English folk.”
In his own booklet note, Miller recalls time spent talking music with Manfred Eicher, ECM’s founder and producer of Silent Light, about two of his key ECM influences: Egberto Gismonti and Pat Metheny, pointing to the appeal of the former’s “raw” approach blended with “classical overtones” and the more “groove-oriented” vibe of the latter with his music’s “Americana feel.” The tracks “Angel” and “Tisane” on Silent Light hint at Metheny’s big-sky acoustic manner, while the guitar-plus-percussion numbers reflect the inspiration of the Duas Vozes LP Gismonti made with Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos, who passed away just as Miller was rehearsing for Silent Light with his percussionist and lifelong friend, Miles Bould. For such pieces as the syncopated “Baden,” pensive opener “What You Didn’t Say,” atmospheric “Water” and “En Passant,” named after a chess move, Bould complements Miller’s guitar with subtle textural and rhythmic touches.