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Ron Miles – Rainbow Sign

February 8, 2021
Ron Miles, cornet; Jason Moran, piano; Bill Frisell, electric guitar; Thomas Morgan, bass; Brian Blade, drums.

Who the hell is Ron Miles? Despite my having never heard of Ron Miles, this is his 12th album as a leader and his debut on a major label – Blue Note (at age 57). He has an impressive discography as a sideman: Bill Frisell, Fred Hess, Joshua Redman, etc. Being based out of Denver does not help his profile.

I recently read a review of this album in Stereophile and I was intrigued to check it out. Wow, what a amazing album! Although on Blue Note, this has an ECM vibe. This album was released in October of 2020, but I missed hearing it until now. If I had heard it in 2020 it would have easily made my best of list.

I have loved jazz since I was a kid. I have never had a technical understanding of the music. It just touches my soul and moves me. As a kid I listened to Hobbs’ House on WCCO radio. Franklin Hobbs was a smoothed voice DJ who played the likes of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, and the big bands to a nationwide audience via ‘CCO’s clear channel signal every night from 10:30 PM till 5 AM the next morning. As a kid I never listened to rock radio or top-40, instead I listened to things like Hobbs House, classical radio and easy listening radio (that is elevator music – Muzak). I am not proud of this. But this is my music origin story. I did not discover rock, pop and contemporary jazz until I was in college. The point is jazz is the foundation of my music obsession.

On my first listen to Ron Miles’ Rainbow Sign I was immediately touched. I tend not to like blowing sessions, but rather intricately arranged, yet improvisational sessions. The band is so simpatico with each other – this is like an organism. Rainbow Sign is the definition of what my favorite kind of jazz performance. The instruments dance together in a way that in total support of each other resulting in a transcendent noise. There is constant movement between instruments, yet no one trips or steps on anyone’s toes. It is almost like this album doesn’t have solos. This is a band at the top of their game. I don’t know how to describe this style of jazz beyond that it’s beautiful. The interplay between instruments is like listening to an interesting conversation. Solos are introduced subtlety-easing in and then out before you know it.

Listening to this album I wonder why more horn players don’t use the cornet more. Its tone is so beautiful. But maybe that is just Ron Miles’ skill: he makes the cornet magical. I don’t think I have ever listened to an album that Bill Frisell plays on, whether as a leader or a sideman, that doesn’t sound great. Rainbow Sign doesn’t break the streak. I have not listened to much Jason Moran, but after this introduction I will be exploring his catalog.

In these impolite times the musical politeness of Rainbow Sign is therapeutic. Highly recommended.

From → Music Reviews

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