Music Reviews
12:47 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Ron Miles Finds Wide-Open Spaces On 'Quiver'

Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 3:19 pm

Teaching jazz history got trumpeter Ron Miles deep into the pleasures of early jazz, with its clarity of form and emphasis on melodic improvising that doesn't wander far from the tune. On his new album, Quiver, his trio performs a rarely revived song from the late '20s, "There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth the Salt of My Tears." Oddly enough, it's also on Diana Krall's new album in a splashier version. Ron Miles brings out the blues in it.

Miles told an interviewer recently that the better he knows how a tune works, the less he has to play to put it across; do it right and the listener will fill in the blanks. That's also his trio's method: Not having a bass is like opening the back door to let a breeze blow through — or let the sound blow out. Miles had recorded his tune "Just Married" with Bill Frisell before, in a quiet duo. Brian Blade's drumming puts them in a roadhouse mood.

Like Ron Miles, Frisell comes from Colorado, where country music is in the air. The trumpeter's melodies both indulge and temper the guitarist's rustic side. The 1920s tunes make an easy fit with Miles' originals. His "Guest of Honor" is named after a lost Scott Joplin opera; it suggests the stately lyricism of classic ragtime, as well as the music that came before that. Played a bit faster and higher, its main theme could be a cornet feature in John Philip Sousa's concert band.

Many jazz trumpeters fall into one of two categories: players who love to show off what they can do, and ones who artfully compensate for what they can't. Ron Miles follows a third way: He has serious chops, but doesn't advertise them. Instead, he comes up with thoughtful settings like this one that rarely call for shouting. His music is about the total effect and feeling, and not about blowing his own horn.

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Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. In the 1980s, trumpeter Ron Miles moved from Denver to New York to study. But he didn't stay very long. He liked living and working back home. He's stayed in Colorado ever since, while still touring or recording with Bill Frisell, Ginger Baker, Don Byron and others.

Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Miles's new trio celebrates wide-open spaces.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "DOIN' THE VOOM VOOM")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Duke Ellington and Bubber Miley's "Doin' the Voom Voom" written in 1929, played by trumpeter Ron Miles with Brian Blade on drums and Mile's frequent ally, Bill Frisell, on guitar. It's from the trumpeter's new album, "Quiver."

Teaching jazz history got Ron Miles deep into the pleasures of early jazz, with its clarity of form and emphasis on melodic improvising that doesn't wander far from the tune. The trio do another rarely revived song from the late '20s, "There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth the Salt of My Tears." Oddly enough, it's also on Diana Krall's new album in a splashier version. Ron Miles brings out the blues in it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THERE AIN'T NO SWEET MAN THAT'S WORTH THE SALT OF MY TEARS")

WHITEHEAD: Ron Miles told an interviewer recently, the better he knows how a tune works, the less he has to play to put it across. Do it right and the listener will fill in the blanks. That's also his sketchy trio's method. Not having a bass is like opening the back door to let a breeze blow through - or let the sound blow out. Miles had recorded his tune "Just Married" with Bill Frisell before, in a quiet duo. Brian Blade's drumming puts them in a roadhouse mood.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUST MARRIED")

WHITEHEAD: Like Ron Miles, Bill Frisell comes from Colorado, where country music is in the air. The trumpeter's melodies both indulge and temper the guitarist's rustic side. The 1920s tunes make an easy fit with Miles' originals. His "Guest of Honor" is named after a lost Scott Joplin opera. It suggests the stately lyricism of classic ragtime, and the music that came before that. Played a bit faster and higher, its main theme could be a cornet feature in John Philip Sousa's concert band.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GUEST OF HONOR")

WHITEHEAD: Many jazz trumpeters fall into one of two categories: players who love to show off what they can do, and ones who artfully compensate for what they can't. Ron Miles follows a third way: He has serious chops, but doesn't advertise them. Instead, he comes up with thoughtful settings like this one that rarely call for shouting. His music is about the total effect and feeling. It's not just about blowing his own horn.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure, Downbeat and Emusic, and is the author of "Why Jazz." He reviewed "Quiver," the new album by trumpeter Ron Miles' new trio on the Enja Yellowbird label. Coming up, Maureen Corrigan reviews A.M. Holmes new novel which Maureen describes as a screwball tragedy about a professor of Richard Nixon studies. This is FRESH AIR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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