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Phil Miller 10/2017

October 18, 2017 – Phil Miller (In Cahoots) was born on January 22, 1949 in Barnet, Hertfordshire, to Mavis (nee Dale), a librarian, and David Miller, a wartime lieutenant colonel in the Royal Marines and later head of commodities at the Stock Exchange. He was educated at Blackfriars boarding school, in Laxton, Northamptonshire, from where he occasionally truanted at night, hitch-hiking to London clubs to hear his musical heroes play, and returning unmissed in time for early-morning mass.

A self-taught guitarist, he formed his first band, Delivery, at 17, and played regularly upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s in London, backing visiting blues legends.

In 1971 he became a vital figure on the “Canterbury scene” when Robert Wyatt, who had just left Soft Machine, recruited Phil to join his new band, Matching Mole. The “scene”, noted for the frequent absence of the electric guitar as a lead instrument, boasted Phil as its undisputed exponent.

Phil’s next band, in 1973, was Hatfield and the North, with the keyboardist Dave Stewart. He continued to develop as an emotive composer and incisive soloist. His compositions were sophisticated avant garde, yet his solos were deeply rooted in blues. He had a tumbling sense of timing that was impossible to replicate, effortlessly hurdling over time-signature changes like a world-class showjumper. You would have felt like applauding if you had not been so enraptured by the engaging elegance of it all, which was actually an important prog rock expression of the Canterbury Scene 

Hatfield morphed into the band National Health – but there was little scope for improvisation and Phil was left feeling creatively stifled. In 1982, with his wife Herm, he soundproofed part of their flat in Dalston, east London, to use as a studio for practising, composing, rehearsals and recording, and formed his own band, In Cahoots. Lasting three decades and with a lineup that at various times included Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, Pip Pyle, Richard Sinclair and Fred Baker. The band toured in Europe, Russia, Japan and the US, releasing 12 albums.

In 2005 and 2006, Miller toured with the re-united Hatfield and the North.

One of Phil’s last acts in this life was to release the In Cahoots albums free on YouTube under the title Phil Miller Musician – a typical example of his generosity of spirit.

Phil Miller died of cancer complications on October 18, 2017 at the age of 68.

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