Ron Miles: Stone / Blossom (2006)

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Ron Miles: Stone / Blossom
Ron Miles' trumpet has such an appealing tone that I'd eagerly listen to him play the songs of Johnny Cash, Lee Morgan, or Earth, Wind and Fire. His directions in music, like those of his close friend Bill Frisell, have been forged from more than just the jazz canon.

Stone/Blossom is equal parts jazz, 1970s love rock and Americana. The Denver-based artist has graced the bands of Bill Frisell, Matt Wilson, Don Byron, and Denver's well-kept secret, Fred Hess. Like his contemporaries, his music is informed by his experience and his surroundings. This release consists of two discs, recorded from two perspectives. Stone is a more traditional jazz quartet (trumpet/drums/piano/bass) and Blossom swerves into (and out of) a rock sound. Neither disc can be labeled with a specific genre.

Stone is the more contemplative of the two discs. This all-acoustic recording highlights Miles' velvety tone. It opens and closes with two very sweet pieces: "Clairvoyance and "Cupid rely on slow, drawn-out melodies played with a healthy respect for the silence and space between the note played and the next thought. Tempered by Eric Gunnison's piano and the warmth of Kent McLagan's bass, Miles spins out meditative sounds, as rhapsodic as the contemplative music of Miles Davis' cool recordings.

The second disc, Blossom, steps into a brighter, more 1970s rocked-out sound. Guitarist Roger Green supplies the punch, with a post-summer of love emphasis, and drummer Rudy Royston switches from his accenting drumming to a more driving sound. Ever-present in these two sessions is the trumpet (or cornet, on Blossom) of Miles. And like Miles Davis, when he covers a pop tune like the Jackson Five's "I'll Be There or the Partridge Family's "I Woke Up In Love This Morning, the music is more than just a gimmick. The ensemble plays each piece with a bit of tomfoolery. The Jackson tune begins in the Caribbean before surging into a rocked swell as Miles blows skittering kisses into his mouthpiece. These players show their jazz-ness by never (and I think this is a rule) playing anything straight.

Glenn Taylor's pedal steel guitar and Roger Green's acoustic guitar inform the CSN&Y sound of "Illuminator, the sweetest track on Blossom. You could pick this piece as a soundtrack to the best day in your week.

Track Listing: Stone: Clairvoyant; Devil in Mind; Letter Grade; Unconditional; Stone; Grown Folks; Cupid. Blossom: Since Forever; Small Town Hero; Gethsemane; I Woke Up In Love This Morning; Ill Be There; Illuminator; If I Dont Get To Heaven; Sleepyhead.

Personnel: Stone: Ron Miles: trumpet; Rudy Royston: drums; Kent McLagan: bass; Eric Gunnison: piano. Blossom: Ron Miles: cornet; Rudy Royston: drums; Greg Garrison: bass; Roger Green: guitar; Erik Deutsch: piano, Rhodes Piano; Eric Moon: organ, accordion, keyboards; Glenn Taylor: pedal steel guitar.

Record Label: Sterling Circle

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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