The Ron Miles Group Saturday, August 18 Dazzle Better than: A mint julep on a hot summer day
Trumpeter Ron Miles has style, man. And that tone, that gorgeous tone, it’s just downright classy. And to hear him do mainly a stylish, subdued set of ballads during Saturday’s 9 p.m. set, well, it was damn near the ideal setting to hear the man play.
Drummer Rudy Royston, who’s been playing with Miles off and on since 1991, started the show off with some trills, which gradually built into something of a snare solo, with sticks clicking on the on the rim. The band then joined in on the Miles original “Close,” which he recorded on Heaven, his duo album with Bill Frisell. It's a slow waltz, which mildly resembles to Burt Bacharach’s “What the World Needs Now.” Miles would toss in a few more Bacharach-isms throughout his set: here and there he added little phrases that just sound like they were pulled from the Bacharach songbook. And Miles has this knack for occasionally hitting the blue notes, those notes that sound a little bit out of key, but that definitely still work.
Bassist Greg Garrison closed “Close” with a solo, which lead into “Since Forever,” another Miles original from his latest release Blossom/Stone. It was a slightly different treatment of the tune than on the record, especially since pianist Eric Moon was playing this set and not guitarist Roger Green, who plays on the album. And nothing against Green’s playing, but using the piano on “Since Forever” really opened the song up and let it breathe. A few times throughout the tune, Royston went from lightly holding down the pop-like backbeat to some heavy-handed crescendos. After one particular build-up, Miles released the pressure with a gorgeous cascade of notes.
After a short “out” excursion on a George Lewis tune, the group went into one of Thelonious Monk’s lesser-known tunes, “San Francisco Holiday,” which lead into a ballad with a waltz feel with Royston hitting the ride cymbal ever so lightly, the drumstick loose in his right hand. The group then lilted into an exquisite version of the Beatles’ “Julia” with Miles playing beautifully on the chorus. His tone was ideal for echoing the subdued vocals that John Lennon originally recorded on the White album.
Miles and company then burst into the thoroughly swinging version of Charlie Parker’s “Koko,” which Miles said was originally recorded with drummer Max Roach, who passed away last Wednesday. The tune was a tribute to Roach and the great local drummer Nat Yarbrough, who passed away August 9, a day before his 71st birthday.
Royston started the next track off with a bouncing march beat. Once the band came in, it almost sounded like a strange meeting of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and Benny Golson’s “Blues March,” which was made famous by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. At the end of the cut, Garrison took a bass solo and then started playing the chorus from “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie. Miles then joined him on the chorus and then Royston and Moon came in for a lovely way to close out the set.
The audience members gave the group an enthusiastic applause, and even though Royston had to someplace to go, he joined the group for a short and galloping romp through “What Is This Thing Called Love.”
-- Jon Solomon
Critic’s Notebook: Personal Bias: OK, all right, Ron Miles is hands down my favorite local trumpet player. Random Detail: After each song the players threw their sheet music on the floor. By the Way: Rudy Royston, a long-time Denver resident, moved to New Jersey last year.
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