Since they began in 2014, Sammy Miller and the Congregation have played Lincoln Center, the White House and even received a standing ovation at the Newport Jazz Festival. The band call New York City home but frequently travel the world with a simple mission – to put the generosity back into jazz and bring art back to the people.
Sammy Miller and the Congregation
Last week, they brought that art to the Nimoy Theater as part of the 2024 CAP UCLA season. The Nimoy is a flexible, state of-the-art performance space located where the historic Crest Theatre once stood on Westwood Boulevard, a couple blocks south of Wilshire.
Led by Los Angeles born drummer/singer Sammy Miller, the group includes all conservatory-trained musicians. Upon completing his Master’s at The Juilliard School, Sammy formed his ensemble, The Congregation. At the Nimoy, the band consisted of Sammy Miller, drums and vocals; Ben Flocks, tenor sax; Sammy’s sister Molly Miller, guitar; Corbin Jones, bass and tuba; and David Linard, piano. Independently, the band members have performed and recorded with notable artists including Wynton Marsalis, Lady Gaga, Jason Mraz and Beyoncé.
The band has been described as a mashup of the sensibilities of Ben Folds and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. They played an infectious mix of vocal and instrumental tracks starting the evening off with an electrifying performance of the main theme from 2001 Space Odyssey – Also Sprach Zarathustra. After the intro, Sammy grabbed a snare drum and, with the rest of the band, walked into the audience to introduce and thank people for coming. How cool and fun is
The musicians played with infectious joy and utter delight, as they played a few originals and reworked classics. They including tunes from Fats Waller, Hank Williams, Louis Armstrong, Scott Joplin, the Jackson, the Allman Brothers and more. They ended the show with a smoking version of Mary Had a Little Lamb.
Miller proved himself to be a master showman – mixing in humor with his delightful stories about jazz history. It was like going to a really fun college music class. The band members were all outstanding, and the audience really enjoyed going along for the ride. My favorite part came near the end when the band froze in rock star-like poses near the end of the song. They stood frozen for a minute and then jumped back into the song to bring the show to a dramatic
My only complaint is that they only played for a little over an hour – but that was because it was, according to Miller, their third show of the day! One thing is for sure. They delivered on Miller’s promise to have folks leave the concert feeling better than when they arrived! Visit the website to find out more about upcoming performances at the Nimoy – https://cap.ucla.edu/ucla-nimoy-theater
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