Music Showcase, Take Three

Nominated in Hip-Hop/Funk
10:45 p.m. The Great Room at Wazoo's

There's no longer any doubt about it: Trumpeter Ron Miles has come of age. His second album for the Gramavision imprint, Woman's Day, has been on the market since early in the year, but it continues to attract complimentary press, including a glowing review heard on National Public Radio last month. Similar kudos have been directed at Miles's band, which has been playing at chi-chi events such as this summer's New York Jazz Festival. For that gig, Miles's regulars were joined by guitarist Bill Frisell, whose current quartet lists Miles as a member. It's a relationship that's benefited both parties, Miles says. "A lot of people have come up to me at gigs I've done with Bill to tell me how much they like my record. Pat Metheny even stopped me in Montreal to say how much he liked it. So that's been really cool." On September 19, Miles appears at the Monterey Jazz Festival; then, on September 24, he begins a tour with Frisell that will take him around the country one more time. (Frisell and Miles stop by the Boulder Theater on October 3.) Upon the completion of that jaunt, Miles is apt to join up with nationally admired bassist Anthony Cox for another quartet project, and he may team with Ginger Baker for the drummer's next jazz recording. Also, he's keeping his fingers crossed that his band will be able to tour Europe in February. "I'm trying to write music for my next record, too," he comments. "It's really in its initial stages. There are three or four pieces written, but it's hard to say what kind of feel the album will have. I try to write tunes without any preconceptions at all, and then when I'm done, I hear the sounds in my head that I think will work best, and that leads me to the musicians who I think can help me get them out. I'm really looking forward to doing that--and I feel very lucky that I've gotten the opportunities I have."

Nominated in Jazz/Swing

Under ordinary circumstances, blueswoman Hazel Miller is pretty excitable. But as she speaks from a hotel room in Detroit, where Big Head Todd and the Monsters are opening for Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, she's so exuberant that you half expect someone to rush into the room and administer a sedative. "Isn't it amazing?" she all but shouts. "These boys have finally found gainful employment for a middle-aged woman." In other words, Miller has been made a permanent, full-time member of the Monsters. And while she does not intend to stop fronting her own group, the Caucasians, with whom she'll appear October 1-5 at the Little Bear, she's reveling in the rock-star life into which she's suddenly been thrust. "We were in Nashville this spring and a reporter wanted to talk to me about joining the band. Can you imagine that? I get asked for autographs sometimes, too, and at this one show in Kansas City for the H.O.R.D.E. tour, I stepped out onto the stage and about eight guys started cheering like crazy. Brian [Nevin, the Monsters' drummer] said, 'Look--Hazel's got a fan club.'" What makes her situation even more pleasurable, she says, is the atmosphere created by the band. "They're all young--they're all around thirty--which makes it even more incredible that they've found the answers so early. In a lot of bands that I've been in, I've had to cover my ears to block out all the arguments. But they never fight. They discuss any problems that come up, they work them out, and then that's it. Can you believe it?" While on tour, Miller has turned into something of an indulgent mom; she admits to having befriended the children of the Melody Makers by slipping them M&Ms when no one's looking. But she can't help herself. She's just so happy. "I've got to tell you--I'm having the time of my life."

Nominated in Blues/R&B
9:45 p.m. The Great Room at Wazoo's

"I don't want to hear some Johnny-come-lately imitating the greats," says Stanley Milton, guitarist, vocalist and leader of the Mean Streak. "If I want to hear that, I can turn on my Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker records, which are better anyway." As is obvious from these statements, Milton has some strong ideas about artistic integrity in the blues, and he tries to live up to them every time he takes the stage. The Mean Streak--Milton, tenor saxophonist Ricky Abitbol, drummer James Leigh and bassist Larry Larraine--play the occasional cover or request (except for "Mustang Sally," which Milton describes as the R&B equivalent of "Free Bird"), but they concentrate on Milton originals that, he says, "tend to have pretty tough arrangements and to be a little screwy. I'm not trying to be typical. A lot of people who play the blues are so ingrained. They've gotten brain damage because they've accepted stereotypes, so they zig when everybody zigs. But sometimes it's more interesting if you zag." Milton has enough material for five albums, but don't expect any boxed sets from him; he's been struggling for the past year to complete a long-delayed single CD. He shies away from announcing an E.T.A. on the disc. "It'll be ready when it's ready--and it won't be the same old thing. Because the main thing that keeps me going is giving things a twist."

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