One wouldn’t think that the back waters of South Dakota would be a place for artist expression. That’s where I grew up in the 60’s. We didn’t even have FM radio. All you heard was AM radio… We didn’t hear people like Jimi Hendrix, or Jeff Beck — much less Howlin’ Wolf or Washboard Sam. But going against the grain were musicians like Mike Miller, Dave Wood, Mark Craney and a host of others whose artistic and musicianship level was equal to anyone in the world. I was incredibly lucky to be around these musicians during my formative years, and to hear them play. Of course I had no idea they were as great as they were. I figured “that’s the level of a professional musician and that is the level I need to aspire to.”
Years later I realized just how fortunate I was to be around these great musicians who not only played well but had their hearts and minds in the right place and so transmitted to me the values I live by. This held true during my years at Berklee College of Music when I played duets with anyone that would have me; once again being lucky I was in Boston at the peak “guitar” period having such great musicians as Bruce Bartlett, Wayne Krantz and Mick Goodrick to interact with.
Further down the road I connected with Mike during his frequent travels through New York City. Mike was gracious with his limited time and agreed to get together to play in the privacy of my apartment. It was so affirmative for me to connect again with such a great musician; to enjoy his love for making music combined with the humor and wit that have always been part of his playing.
Now, in 2004 I have a recording studio in Manhattan — I invited Mike over to record with the hope that we could capture some of the kind of musical dialogue that I hold so dear. For me there has been few things as great as sitting in a room with another guitar player and just making music. No ego, no agenda, no politics — just a need and want to interact and make music. I believe this recording captures this kind of interaction and I hope you find it as enjoyable as I do.
– Bruce Arnold
To hear or purchase music from this CD please visit the Two Guys from South Dakota page at the record company Muse Eek Recordings
“The guitar duo of Bruce Arnold and Mike Miller interprets familiar standards on this pleasant session. Musically interesting and filled with inspiration, they provide the listener with an inside look at each classic piece. Their performance is laid-back and introspective.
As they alternate melodic and rhythm roles, the two guitarists swing lightly and maintain a close-knit groove. Their lyrical caresses reveal a coolness in their passion, as each picks his instrument delicately. Crisp and clear, their interwoven phrases move casually through a gentle landscape.
The album’s liner notes do not reveal which is which. One guitarist moves with a forward, vibrant force and more passion, while the other prefers a cooler, laid-back approach. Both prefer improvisation that is challenging and musically accurate. They remain positioned on the left and the right throughout their session.
Old friends from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Arnold and Miller have both moved on to successful professional careers with the guitar. This takes them on separate paths, and travel is always on the horizon. Their reunion offers the listener a relaxed outing that is both well conceived and enjoyable.”
—Jim Santella, allaboutjazz.com
“Some nice picking and swinging on this album as these two guys converse musically in the language of counterpoint as demonstrated on “Billie’s Bounce”
“Alone Together” finds this duo initially sticking close to the melody in a great exhibition of interpretive balladizing. Ideas abound in the solos.”
—John Gilbert, ejazznews.com
“In a two-guitar outing, Arnold and Miller explore jazz classics such as “Giant Steps” and “Alone Together” in fresh, imaginative ways.”
—Bob Karlovits, Pittsburgh Tribune
“Guitar duos are an honorable and deep jazz tradition that reaches back to the music’s beginnings. Two Guys From South Dakota is a superior, bop-based addition to that lineage, and it fits right in. Arnold and Miller are in fact from South Dakota, and they keep things swinging throughout. They have stylistic roots in Jim Hall, and to a lesser extent, Pat Metheny, although neither of them are mere imitators. They do favor Hall’s lyrical, relaxed swing, however.
The approach here consistently is one of soloing with chordal comping, rather than contrapuntal improvising. Each guitarist comps deftly for the other, increasing the swing by emphatic comps or walking a single-note bass line. The music generates the most momentum when one of the guitarists is walking, as on “All The Things You Are,” for example. “Giant Steps,” by contrast, becomes a relaxed bossa nova. “Invitation” is the most exciting track, with both Arnold and Miller playing fiery solos that explore the outer edges of the chord changes.
Two Guys From South Dakota is straightahead, uncluttered, and unpretentious; warm, inventive, and above all, solidly swinging.”
—Marc Meyers, All About Jazz
“The lounge feel of softly spoken jazz continues with this guitar duet of standards. Yes, bebop lives with understated aplomb in South Dakota. Given traditional readings, “Billie’s Bounce,” “All The Things You Are,” “Time Remembered,” “Invitation” and “Alone Together” sound like something we’d gear from John Abercrombie and John Scofield a good 25 years ago. “Giant Steps” forgoes the heat in favor of an easygoing Latin lilt. Arnold and Miller make it all sound fresh.”
—John Ephland, Downbeat
“From Bruce Arnolds’s liner notes: “For me there are few things as satisfying as sitting in a room with another guitar player and just making music. No ego, no agenda, no politics &endash; just a need to interact and make music. I believe this recording captures this kind of interaction and I hope you find it as enjoyable as I do.” Well, I sure as hell found this album extremely entertaining. two guys from south dakota is a great example of two musicians who exhibit symbiosis by sharing the lead back and forth, never stepping on each other, and finding a comfortable swinging groove to unwind inside of on each of the six songs on the CD. There is a relaxed and unforced casualness to this album, even when the fretboard action is frenetic, so that I’d call this ideal early or late evening music (in the same way that the Pat Metheny/Charlie Haden duet album, Beyond the Missouri Sky, is as well). While the mood is lighter, bouncier, and livelier on some tracks than on …Missouri Sky, the overall vibe is still that of a twilight neon glow than anything else. This is not a smooth jazz album, although I suppose fans of “lite jazz guitar” would like this CD. Jazz purists will embrace this recording with arms wide open, though.
The music on the CD is, for the most part, highly accessible, even when the improvisational mood hits Arnold and Miller. If there is a concern to be expressed about the album it would be be that the less sophisticated ear might find the sound of just two guitars for an entire recording tiresome. I had no such reaction, but I really love jazz guitar. To my ears, there is enough variation between songs that this critique would only apply to someone who needs a wide variety of music on a CD. While I seldom openly endorse playing a jazz album solely as background music, and I’m not necessarily doing that here, two guys… works nicely in that regard nonetheless.
Singling out favorite tracks is solely academic, because I enjoyed everything here. For the sake of providing detail, “Time Remembered” is slightly more introspective and subdued than, for example, “Invitation” and “Alone Together” is decidedly more bluesy than the uptempo infectious “Billie’s Bounce.” Honestly, though, a yeoman guitar lover could easily allow the lines between cuts to blur and just enjoy the album as a whole. Regardless of what position you assume, two guys from south dakota is an excellent, if not superb, recording and I recommend it highly, as well as noting it should be considered nigh essential for jazz guitar fans.”
—Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire
“An intriguing CD that mixes electric processed guitar with flute, clarinet, percussion, bass and cello, Spooky Actions: Early Music is a 2004 album from Bruce Arnold and wind player John Gunther. Neoclassical and Gregorian-flavored instrumental chamber music featuring electric guitar and wind instruments proves a novel idea and with a twist, Arnold’s processed guitar creates the perfect atmospheric backdrop for Gunther to soar while the pair receive expert help from Kirk Driscoll (drums) and Mike Richmond (bass, cello). Touching on music dating back to the 2nd century BC, the music is amazing and puts an entirely new twist on the improvisational aspects of early and modern classical music. Another cool CD on Muse Eek, Two Guys From South Dakota teams Arnold’s guitar with guitarist Mike Miller. A jazzy date–completely different from Arnold’s Spooky Actions set–Two Guys From South Dakota is a 2005 CD on Muse-Eek featuring two guitarists serving up light-hearted jams on jazz classics like “Giant Steps” and “All The Things You Are.” Either way, Arnold proves an amazing guitarist and these two CDs–while completely different–offers a good indication of his uncanny diversity.”
—Record Label and Music Spotlight, MWE3.com
“Two guitars and an acoustically agreeable setting are the only ingredients Arnold and Miller need for making lovely music on (1). They simply sit down and play–and the results will lighten your step and put a smile on your face. Their music swings in the classic tradition of the straight-ahead genre, yielding abundant quantities of enjoyable licks built around involved, interpersonal communication. Using tried and true songs as their vehicle, Arnold and Miller make intimate magic while placing an original spin on the very familiar tunes. I would guess the number of times “All the Things You Are” has been recorded is immeasurable, yet these two guys bring intertwined, delicate, and original life to the piece. All of the tunes they tackle come out fresh as a spring morning, including a very unique version of “Giant Steps” that permits them to stretch out and jam.
Typical of unions of two guitarists, each musician plays an alternating dual role. Arnold may take flight with melodic improvisations off the changes while Miller builds a highly complementary rhythmic circle around him. Then the roles change, allowing Miller to be the adventurer and Arnold to establish the underlying pace. Both men are keen listeners as well, so the notes fold together in seamless pleats of sound. There is quickness in their fingering, causing much of the music to march to a lively muse. Ballads, however, go hand in hand with this lyrical approach to Jazz, and they are rendered with tender loving care while the perception of adventure remains. It all turns out right with these two artists who transmit the feeling of warmth and a personal message on this inspired set.”
—Frank Rubolino, Cadence Magazine