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It's no secret why Ron Miles is one of the most highly regarded trumpeters of his generation. His rich, burnished tone and supple lyricism have won over Bill Frisell and Wayne Horvitztwo of jazz's leading aesthetic visionariesalong with fans who appreciate understatement, whispered dissonance, wry humor. All of these attributes can be found on Stone/Blossom, the Denver-based trumpeter's latest effort, a collection that finds Miles walking the line between rock and jazz, Motown and country, threading these disparate styles together with his unmistakable sound.
Stone, the first of two discs, is a fairly straightforward quartet session featuring Miles' Denver rhythm section. The compositionsall originals by the leaderunfold slowly, sometimes painfully and seldom emerge from a nearly uniform balladic tempo. The playing is solid all around, as is the group cohesion and sound, but something is lacking. Stone could easily pass for "background music, the kind that hums in elevators and hotel lobbies, if not for the subtle melodic turns, languid half-valves and glowing trumpet dissonances.
He literally saves "Devil In Mind with his melodic invention and rhythmic sense, as he does with most of the cuts from the first disc; the tunes simply aren't on the same level as the playing.
An augmented group backs Miles on Blossom, as they open disc two of the set with the prog-rockish original "Since Forever. Purists may cringe at the canned drum beat and repeating pedal steel riff, but the melody is truly catchy and Miles' reading of it and his subsequent solo are memorable; he even throws in some subtle variations, harmonic rubs and coy growls to mix it up. Far and away the high point of the disc is a clever cover of "I'll Be There. The guitar riff is simply irresistible, breaking through clouds of dissonance and smeared trumpet notes to keep a steady pulse behind the leader's relaxed, lovely horn.
Track Listing: Stone-Clairvoyant; Devil In Mind; Letter Grade; Unconditional; Stone; Grown Folks; Cupid; Blossom-Since Forever; Small Town Hero; Gethsamane; I Woke Up This Morning; I'll Be There; Illuminator; If I Don't 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; Eric Moon: organ, accordion, keyboards; Glen Taylor: pedal steel guitar.