Looking Up


Based up in the Boston area, Mill City Trio combines the talents of Anthony D’Anna (drums and percussion), Jamie Dunphy (guitar) and Greg Passler (guitar and bass). With a sound that is similar, at least in style, to guitar fusion trendsetters like Pat Metheny and Kurt Rosenwinkel, the group’s 2010 CD Looking Up has received much praise from critics and fans alike. Guitar fans will note that Mill City Trio have several other albums in their catalog—including Solstice (2006) and Deep Down (2008)—but 2010’s Looking Up is a great place to start to discover the jazzy, atmospheric, guitar based Mill City Trio instrumental sound. The overall sound of Looking Up is modern mainstream jazz, yet fitting in on the album, among the electric guitar based tracks, there’s also an intriguing acoustic based cut here called “Whirlpool” that features a kind of bolero like Nuevo Flamenco groove that also holds up quite well after repeated listening. Interestingly, in addition to their original jazz compositions, at their concerts, Mill City Trio has also featured revved-up versions of “Canarios” by Baroque composer Gaspar Sanz as well as a cover of “Overkill” from ‘80s rock band Men At Work. One of the best guitar-based instrumental jazz albums of 2010, Looking Up is a worthy musical mood changer that will have you looking up in no time.

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Musical Background

Greg Passler: I've been playing for over 25 years. For several years, I initially studied classical guitar - then as a teen, I also began to explore rock and jazz with the electric guitar. I explored all of these styles at music school. Besides guitar, I play electric bass (I've also been working on upright) as well as some banjo.

Jamie Dunphy: I've been playing guitar since I was about 11 or 12 years old, although I honestly don't ever remember not playing. I've tried a number of other instruments along the way; in fact, my undergraduate degree focused on trumpet performance. However, by the time I got to grad school, I had decided to return my focus to the guitar. I was lucky enough to study with a fantastic guitarist named Rick Schilling at UMASS Lowell, and then with legendary jazz guru Charlie Banacos. I'm currently studying Renaissance lute with Olav Chris Henriksen. It may be a detriment to my career, but I like so many different styles of music and want to explore them all!

New CD

JD: Our new disc is called Looking Up. This is our third release and features our usual lineup of Greg, myself, and a wonderful drummer named Tony D'Anna. The recording was engineered by Brian Charles at Zippah Studios in Boston. He did a great job capturing a nice intimate sound, and creating a studio environment that was conducive to good performances. Our first two CDs were essentially live recordings, but on this one we allowed ourselves the luxury of some bass and percussion overdubs. There's even a track, "Whirlpool" that features Greg and I on nylon-stringed guitars. I think the new album really showcases the rapport the three of us have developed over five years of playing together.

Favorite Guitars

GP: My main guitar is a 1980's Fender Bullet that I purchased a few years ago. The guitar has been customized with a Harmonic Design Z90 pickup in the neck position and a TV Jones Power Tron pickup in the bridge. It's an unusual guitar for playing jazz, but I really like the neck and the sound I get out of it. For bass I use a Fender Jazz Bass Special. The bass has had it's frets removed (so it's fretless). I also played upright bass on "Whirlpool" from the CD, we were going for an all acoustic sound on that track. I like the action high on all my instruments, I think that helps get a bigger more robust sound (especially with the bass). For amps I use a Henriksen jazz amp for both bass and guitar. I also used an old Fender Sidekick Reverb for the guitar tracks on the CD.

JD: My main guitar is a Washburn J-10 archtop with a Kent Armstrong floating pickup. I use LaBella flatwound strings and Dunlop nylon picks; the combination of the two creates a really mellow tone. Right now I play through a modified Roland Jazz Chorus; an amp maker in New Hampshire named Phil Bourgelais built a new cherry cabinet for it, which really warms up the sound.

Musical Influences

JD: The guys who initially drew me to jazz guitar were the post-bop guitarists, Jimmy Raney, Tal Farlow, and especially Herb Ellis. A really influential album for me was Dave Douglas' Songs for Wandering Souls, which features Douglas on trumpet, Brad Shepik on guitar and Jim Black on drums. This was the recording that convinced me that a trio setting with drums but no bass could be really effective. The variety of textures they create on this album is incredible, considering the limited instrumentation. I like Shepik's playing a lot. Like Greg and I, he's someone playing contemporary jazz with a classic, clean sound.

GP: Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Ran Blake, Shirley Horn, Bill Evans, Chet Baker, Duke Ellington. For guitarists: Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Raney, Lenny Breau, Mike Stern. Some influential recordings would be: Shape of Jazz To Come (Ornette Coleman), E.S.P. (Miles Davis), Money Jungle (Duke Ellington) and Sonic Temples (Ran Blake). I've also studied Indian Music with Prasanna Ramaswamy and I think his latest recording/collaboration as the Ragabop Trio is great!

Upcoming Plans

GP: We are planning on continuing to promote the CD through gigs and radio airplay etc. We'd also like to play some jazz festivals.

Web Site

Our website is
Please contact Jamie Dunphy:


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