Charlie Miller – Fonk Horn


In stock


Original release date: 2000; re-issue date: 2010

Label: Independent

Track Listing

  1. Just a Closer Strut with Thee
  2. Careless Love
  3. Didn’t He Ramble
  4. Aura Lee
  5. Deep River
  6. New Orleans
  7. Swamp Dawn
  8. Fonk Horn
  9. Beautiful Dreamer
  10. Saints Go Marchin’ In
  11. A Closer Romp with Thee
  12. Let the Rest of the World Go By
  13. Home Sweet Home


Charlie Miller – trumpet, flute, vocals

Fred Staehle – winger tree (drums)

Review from Gambit Weekly

by Geraldine Wyckoff – Gambit Weekly – April 18, 2000

“I went from a one-piece band to a two-piece band,” Trumpeter, Charlie Miller says of his
latest release, Fonk Horn – Rhythms from New Orleans. Miller’s previous outing, Peace Horn
was an entirely solo project, but this new disc has him teaming up with drummer Freddy
Staelhe, a long time friend and fellow Dr. John cohort. This hardly is your ordinary duo,
however, because Miller and Staehle aren’t your everyday type of musicians.

Miller is a free spirited trumpet player – a musical philosopher, some might say, who is
more concerned with the music’s essence and inner life, than the shine on a finished product.
He has a kindred spirit in Staehle, who shares these musical views, which shine through
on this wondefully unusual album.

For his part, Staehle uses more than just a kit. His large, self-constructed, multifaceted rig
is called the “Winger Tree”. He says it’s a melodic percussion instrument that has grown
and evolved over the past 20 years. It’s name comes from the image of a flying tree and
it’s concept from the buddist understanding of the tree of life.

Miller considers Fonk Horn to be his New Orleans album, an attempt to capture the
spirit of the music he remembers from his childhood. That sense of innocence and delight
rings out from his trumpet’s whimsical slurs and flutters on the opener, “A Closer Strut
With Thee”. Staehle performs a simple shuffle step to Miller’s arrangement of the
classic tune. Later Staehle puts on his tap shoes, elaborating on the rhythm, with the
shorter and geared-up version, “A Closer Romp With Thee”.

“It’s about freedom from the barriers that exist in most human experiences, and in most
arts, and in most music.” Miller says of the feeling he wanted to create on the album.
“Freedom from the framework of predicting exactly what’s going to happen in the next
second. When we made this record, we had no arrangements. I just went over to this
person’s house, set my mics up, counted off some stuff, and we
started playing – just trying to capture this vibe.

Staehle agrees: “It was very spontaneous, but it usually is like that with good musicians
like Charlie. I didn’t expect that two people – just drums and trumpet – could produce
a sound that is commercial enough for people to appreciate, that they don’t miss a
full band.”

There is a brass band parade second-lining down the street on two of Miller’s originals,
“New Orleans” and “Fonk Horn.” His trumpet beckons those behind screen doors to
join the festivities. On the latter track, we can hear the band passing by, perhaps turning
the block as it’s music fades away. …

Miller displays his vocal talents on Fonk Horn for the first time …
… on classic “Didn’t He Ramble” which evokes the spirit of Dr. John. “Because we all
came up and learned this music at the same time, there’s an aesthetic give-and-take
[between us]” says Miller. “It’s hard to tell where one of us starts and the other ends
when it comes to this music. …

While we were playing, I just grabbed hold of the moment that we were in each time,”
says Miller, “Like riding the waves in the lake. There were surprises moment to moment
but Freddy and I were both going with them. We’d give in to them.”  …

Staehle agrees, pointing to Fonk Horn as an example of what can happen when local
talent takes chances. “The album is very representative of New Orleans musicians
because they are very talented and creative and will try different things that normal
people won’t try. That’s what Charlie allowed to happen.”

There is a warning label on Fonk Horn: “Please turn up your volume. This CD has
slightly lower volume than you might expect – for artistry and groove sake.” The
sentiment is typically Miller, who refused to buy into today’s industry standards of
recording “hot”.

“As soft as a note is or as loud as a note is, I wanted to keep the groove in the record.
I didn’t want to sacrifice that”

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