Violinist Buckley Mills, a child prodigy, first studied with his father before joining the Sioux City Symphony at the age of 14, as their youngest member. A proficient artist in various genres, from classical to jazz and rock to country, his perfect pitch abilities were documented in 2007 in the worldwide media including ABC News. Moving to Nashville, Tennessee in 2002, he opened a violin business, but retired from it in 2008 so he could finish his collegiate education through registration at Harvard University. This recording, Violin On Fire, is his debut.
If there is one thing that is undeniable in relation to this recording, it is that this disc is great fun to listen to. Guided by its perpetually upbeat style, intensely inventive violin solos, wonderful collection of classic swing jazz standards and the overall spirit of joy, make this one of the most fun albums to be released in a long time. If you’re looking for a definitive musical statement, you won’t find it here, instead you will be treated to an artist who obviously loves playing.
Even on the ballads like "Georgia On My Mind," Mills’ use of inventive phrases that don’t sound cliché in his hands, as well as rock solid masterly technique and perfect intonation, not to mention his penchant for double-time riffs, creates a track that transcends the familiar melody.
On the upbeat barn-stompers, like "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Satin Doll," Mills is first and foremost ripping it up. Though at times he sounds a little on the country side, his glissandi and portamentos have a twang about them, that doesn’t detract from the overall effect.
Mills’ backing band is just that, obviously hired to back and provide accompaniment; this disc is all about presenting Mills and his incredible mastery. In that regard Roger Spencer’s bass and Chris Brown’s drums set up the tempos and style in such a manner that allows Mills to have the most freedom. Pat Berguson, who was named as one of Chet Atkins' top twelve favorite guitarists in the Oct. 2001 issue of Vintage Guitar Magazine, plays with an unmistakable flair. His occasionally use of country chord harmony voicings only adds spice to the country flavor Mills occasionally displays. Overall this band, when they open up, as on "Jive At Five," are hot, but then again this is to be expected as they are some of the best musicians working behind the scenes today.
The trick for Mills will be whether he decides to move to New York and try his hand at the jazz grinder, or stays in Nashville working. That he deserves wider recognition is without a doubt the easiest call any critic would ever have to make, here’s hoping he’s able to traverse the ground.