Ron Miles: Rainbow Sign

Ian Patterson By

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Ron Miles: Rainbow Sign
The symbolism of the rainbow varies from one culture to the next, and not all interpretations are positive, but the notion of the rainbow as a pathway between this life and the afterlife is perhaps the most pertinent for Ron Miles. Rainbow Sign, the Blue Note debut of the Colorado-based cornetist, was mostly written as his father was passing away in the summer of 2018, so it is no surprise that the music has a reflective, poignant quality. Reunited with the quartet of Bill Frisell, Jason Moran, Thomas Morgan and Brian Blade from 2017's I Am A Man (Yellowbird), Miles quietly steers the group through elegant songs of empathy, love, patience and celebration.

A master of both long and short-form composition, Miles gives plenty of room for his bandmates to shine, and whilst there are lyrical solos aplenty, the real strength of the music resides in the intuitive interplay within the collective voice. Nowhere is this better exemplified than on the sixteen-minute opening track, "Like Those Who Dream," where ruminative stirrings build inexorably into bluesy melodic lines and sure-footed groove, with each musician soloing in turn. The real delights, however, are to be found in the spontaneous unison phrases, the deft melodic echoes and lyrical embellishments, and in the shifting rhythmic foundations.

Miles, like Frisell, has the knack of making the simple somehow profound, and the uncluttered melodic charm of "Queen of the South," and the caressing balladry of "Rumours" provide album highlights. There is beauty of a starker nature in "Average," a gentle rumination that draws a plaintive solo from Miles on muted cornet and a beautifully weighted response from Morgan. By contrast, the swing and bluesy warmth of the title track could almost have hailed from a 1950s Blue Note session. Miles is in robust voice here, with Moran also stretching out. Ever the agent provocateur, Frisell teeters hypnotically on the line between comping and leading.

"Custodian of the New" oscillates between tightly spun unison lines and a looser, jam-like aesthetic where Moran and then Miles stretch out over persuasive rhythmic patterns. Strangely mellow and moody, "This Old Man" exudes a noirish air, with Miles once again employing the mute while Frisell injects a little pedal/loop soundscaping. The guitarist takes the leap on the bebop-influenced "Binder" with a mischievous solo that ends just as it threatens to get really interesting, much like those by Moran, Miles and Blade that follow. "A Kind Word" provides an uplifting parting statement, the quintet moving assuredly as one through the gears towards a powerful finale.

Like the rainbow of the title Miles delivers a range of emotive colors. Some are of deep hue, others are more subtle in tone, but it is precisely in the contrasts—and in the fine shading where one idea bleeds harmoniously into another—that the exceptional beauty resides.

Track Listing

Like Those Who Dream; Queen of the South; Average; Rainbow Sign; The Rumour; Custodian of the New; This Old Man; Binder; A Kind Word.


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

Album information

Title: Rainbow Sign | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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