May 22, 2024

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CD review: Ron Miles – Old Main Chapel – 2024: Video, CD cover

The brilliant and beloved cornetist and composer Ron Miles released his Blue Note debut Rainbow Sign in 2020 shortly before his tragic death in 2022 from a rare blood disorder.

His legacy is honored with the release of Old Main Chapel, a recording that captures a sublime live performance by Miles’ trio with guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Brian Blade in 2011 at Old Main Chapel in Boulder, Colorado.

The 7-song set featured 6 of Miles’ indelible originals along with a cover of “There Ain’t No Sweet Man that’s Worth the Salt of My Tears.” The CD package includes heartfelt remembrances by Frisell, Blade, pianist and frequent collaborator Jason Moran, Blue Note President Don Was, and Ron’s daughter Justice Miles.

The seven intimate tracks on this delightful chamber-jazz trio album were recorded live at the University of Colorado’s Old Main Chapel in 2011. Lines are precise, emotions finely drawn and trumpeter Ron Miles renders his compositions with a delicate blend of tenderness and spikiness. The belated release now arrives as a tribute to Miles, who died aged 58 in 2022 of a rare blood disorder. The performance finds him and guitarist Bill Frisell, a longtime collaborator, relishing each other’s company, revelling in Americana and respecting the music’s sense of space. Add in drummer Brian Blade, who emphasises the music’s narrative contours, and the album moves from warm-up gig to standalone release. It begins with “Mr Kevin” and Miles ruminating invitingly with a pure trumpet tone.

Frisell shimmers in support, Blade adds skitters of drums and a simple phrase is passed from trumpet to guitar. The album’s only cover comes next, “There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth the Salt of My Tears”, written by Fred Fisher and recorded by Bing Crosby and the Paul Whiteman Orchestra in 1928. Here, a slight melody gains depth as sombre trumpet and drums blend precisely with guitar. Elsewhere, “Guest of Honour” has a slightly dizzy feel, “Queen Bee” is downbeat and “New Medium” is a jaunty final track. Blade frequently adds the dynamics of splashed cymbals and whisper-quiet snare-drum taps rather than simply marking the pulse. In contrast, the sprightly “Ruby-Go-Round” delivers swinging beats and syncopated lines.

“I Will Be Free” is the album’s ballad and, at six minutes, the shortest track. Miles released a dozen albums in his 35-year career and sideman credits ranged from Ginger Baker to Jason Moran. Based in Denver, he had until recently been somewhat overlooked. At the time of his death, though, his international reputation as a bandleader was on the rise. This release confirms his status.

1. Mr. Kevin (Live) (11:56)
2. There Ain’t No Sweet Man that’s Worth the Salt of My Tears (Live) (12:30)
3. Guest Of Honor (Live) (10:14)
4. Queen B (Live) (12:35)
5. Rudy-Go-Round (Live) (13:04)
6. I Will Be Free (Live) (6:38)
7. New Medium (Live) (11:08)

Ron Miles - Old Main Chapel - Music

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