Trumpeter Ron Miles died yesterday at age 58. He played with a lot of my favorite musicians, including drummer Ginger Baker and clarinetist Ben Goldberg, and released at least a dozen albums of his own. I first experienced Miles when he was a member of the quartet of another favorite of mine, guitarist Bill Frisell. (Like Frisell, Miles was raised in Denver, Colorado.)
Frisell’s mid-1990s group, which also featured Eyvind Kang (violin) and Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), debuted with the 1996 album Quartet. The record is rich with arch instrumentals that explore noir atmospherics and hint at the electronically mediated Americana of Frisell’s work to come. It consists primarily of music composed for film and TV, including a Gary Larson Far Side special.
Miles’ trumpet, his voice, could achieve a tonal peacefulness, a poise and composure, that was all his own. He could also engage in a playful, communal, musical banter in whatever band he was part of. The above video is a live performance, apparently in Ljubljana, Slovenia, from the year after the release of Quartet. Just last September, Miles headlined at the Village Vanguard in Manhattan when it reopened after the pandemic lockdown. And now he is dead, due to a rare blood disorder. He will be missed.