This little gem of a duet recording should instantly find its way to the collections of all Bill Frisell fans. What's more, it should also bring some well-deserved attention to Denver-based trumpeter Ron Miles, an emotive player and writer who released two superb CDs on Gramavision in the '90s and who has long been a featured player in Frisell's septet.
Heaven finds the two kindred spirits exchanging ideas in an intimate, purely acoustic setting like old friends engaged in a warm, animated conversation. The opening and bouncy "Just Married," underscored by Frisell's folksy strumming, sets an unpretentious and amiable mood for the proceedings. Miles' golden tone and unhurried manner is on full display throughout and is particularly arresting on spacious offerings like his achingly beautiful, country-flavored ditty "Coward of the County" and on his graceful, lighter-than-air waltz "Close." The two artists speak delicately and eloquently to each other on "Ron Miles," Frisell's lyrical ode to his sometime sideman, and on Miles' delicate "Beautiful." They turn in an ethereal take on Ellingtonia with the title track, then stutter step their way through an appropriately quirky yet swinging rendition of Monk's "We See" before strutting with ragtime glee on Jelly Roll Morton's "King Porter Stomp." The other side of the coin from that ebullient romp is Miles' darkly introspective "Falsetto," in which the trumpeter engages in some intriguing multiphonics over Frisell's bass ostinato.
Perhaps the most tender offerings in this seamless 12-song cycle are the mournful renditions of Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart" and Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," tunes that brilliantly reveal the organic and empathetic nature of this extraordinary duet.