Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

10

Ron Miles: I Am A Man

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
When two workers were killed by a malfunctioning garbage truck in Memphis in 1968, the flames of activism were rightly stoked. Sanitation workers fed up with poor working conditions and abuse of power poured into the streets wielding "I Am A Man" signs, making a principled stand that spoke not only to the situation at hand, but also to a broader struggle connected to the civil rights movement. That incident remains clearly fixed in cornetist Ron Miles' mind, standing out both for its place in history and for what the statement on those signs represents.

In addressing the very notion of the "I Am A Man" platform, Miles references the sadly apparent nexus between injustices of the past and our present day situation, bringing social justice into his artistic sphere while also investigating the more philosophical notions connected to humans simply being and expressing themselves. There's no dichotomizing these topics for Miles—"it's impossible and unnecessary to separate spirituality and politics, and art and politics," he shares in Michelle Mercer's finely crafted liner notes—and this album is all the better for it.

The quintet that Miles assembled for I Am A Man capitalizes on long-lasting relationships and familiar figures. First and foremost on the list of old friends is Bill Frisell. The shared sensibilities that bind the cornetist and guitarist have been on display for more than two decades, highlighted on Frisell releases like the eerily wonderful Quartet (Nonesuch, 1996), the richly textured Blues Dream (Nonesuch, 2001), and the stylistically broad-minded History, Mystery (Nonesuch, 2008); collective concoctions, such as the two albums from Floratone; and a number of Miles dates, like the duo-licious Heaven (Sterling Circle, 2002) and the trio-centric Quiver (Enja/Yellowbird, 2012) and Circuit Rider (Enja/Yellowbird, 2014). Drummer Brian Blade, the third member of the trio on those aforementioned Miles albums, also returns for another ride here, bringing his inimitable touch and signature blend of grace and groove to the fore.

While Miles' past trio dates never wanted for anything or anyone, the two additives on this outing—bassist Thomas Morgan and pianist Jason Moran—prove indispensable, manifesting as the missing ingredients that nobody could've known were missing in the past. Morgan, who's Frisell's bassist of choice these days, is a highly skilled harmonic navigator and a rhythmic pillar, capably binding this band and craftily finding his way through solid checkpoints and the mists of uncertainty that occasionally create a fog. Moran, whose distinctive personality could theoretically threaten to overpower any situation, perfectly meshes with his band mates. At times he artfully weaves his keys into the tapestry, but he's equally comfortable standing out front to paint a pensive picture as an entryway ("Darken My Door") or add his two cents in a quaint and beautiful setting ("Mother Juggler").

The originals presented here are basically in keeping with the general theme and Miles' established persona. His cornet, with its sapphire-to-indigo blue streaks, provides a high level of warmth that draws in the ears, and his compositions inspire conversation, communication, and the occasional feeling of consternation (i.e. the core of "Revolutionary Congregation"). One number might be set off by a simple motif, inviting a lyrical strain to set in and a grooving gathering to take shape ("I Am A Man"); another might flow from the start, with an underlying swing pulse setting a curved course for cool ("The Gift That Keeps On Giving"); and a third may call on deep reflection ("Is There Room In Your Heart For A Man Like Me?").

There's great specificity in Miles' writing, yet the music is flexible enough to allow for these five beautiful and intrepid souls to make their mark within the established bounds. I Am A Man occupies a rare space, existing as a mark of musical pride and dignity, a statement driven by social activism, a history-propelled piece of art, and an album that challenges and unites. What's more, it scores incredibly high marks when viewed from each of those angles.

Track Listing: I Am A Man; Darken My Door; The Gift That Keeps On Giving; Revolutionary Congregation; Mother Juggler; Jasper; Is There Room In Your Heart For A Man Like Me?.

Personnel: Ron Miles: cornet; Brian Blade: drums; Bill Frisell: guitar; Jason Moran: piano; Thomas Morgan: bass.

Title: I Am A Man | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Yellowbird

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
Read more articles
I Am A Man

I Am A Man

Yellowbird
2017

buy
Circuit Rider

Circuit Rider

ENJA - Yellowbird
2014

buy
Quiver

Quiver

Enja Records
2012

buy
Stone/Blossom

Stone/Blossom

Sterling Circle
2007

buy
Stone / Blossom

Stone / Blossom

Sterling Circle
2006

buy
Laughing Barrel

Laughing Barrel

Sterling Circle
2003

buy
Date Detail Price
Feb6Wed
20:00
Matt Wilson: Honey And Salt
Umass Old Chapel
Amherst, MA
$7-15
Feb18Mon
19:30
Scott Colley, Joshua Redman, Brian Blade, Ron...
Barbican Centre
London, UK
Apr7Sun
19:30
Bangs Featuring Jason Moran, Mary Halvorson...
Sanders Theatre
Cambridge, MA
$58, 48, 37, 30

Related Articles

Read Rats Live on No Evil Star CD/LP/Track Review
Rats Live on No Evil Star
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 9, 2018
Read We Two CD/LP/Track Review
We Two
by David A. Orthmann
Published: December 9, 2018
Read Angel Band: Free Country Vol. 3 CD/LP/Track Review
Angel Band: Free Country Vol. 3
by Peter Hoetjes
Published: December 9, 2018
Read The Complete Lansdowne Recordings 1965-1969 (Vinyl box set) CD/LP/Track Review
The Complete Lansdowne Recordings 1965-1969 (Vinyl box set)
by Roger Farbey
Published: December 9, 2018
Read The End of the Universe CD/LP/Track Review
The End of the Universe
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 9, 2018
Read Little Big CD/LP/Track Review
Little Big
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 8, 2018
Read "Threnodius Daevidus - in honour of Mr Allen" CD/LP/Track Review Threnodius Daevidus - in honour of Mr Allen
by Anthony Shaw
Published: October 26, 2018
Read "More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14" CD/LP/Track Review More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14
by Eric Gudas
Published: December 1, 2018
Read "Cooking Groove" CD/LP/Track Review Cooking Groove
by Jim Olin
Published: July 15, 2018
Read "A New Beginning" CD/LP/Track Review A New Beginning
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 23, 2018
Read "No One Is Alone" CD/LP/Track Review No One Is Alone
by Chris Mosey
Published: August 20, 2018
Read "The Poetry of Jazz" CD/LP/Track Review The Poetry of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 20, 2018