Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Ron Miles: Circuit Rider

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Guitarist Bill Frisell is the foremost, if not founding, practitioner of Americana jazz. But the ambiance conjured by that subgenre is never more beguiling than when Frisell sidles into projects led by his longtime friend and cohort, cornetist-trumpeter Ron Miles. Circuit Rider continues the lineage of their duet disc, Heaven, from 2002, and Quiver a decade later, which inaugurated their current trio by adding Brian Blade on drums. All three albums feature songs that are as firm, earthy and countrified as heirloom tomatoes.

Maybe it’s their shared Colorado roots, but Miles and Frisell exude a sense of parochial community, often by varying the timbre of their instruments in an acutely sensitive yet ever-dynamic fashion. There is a prideful, knee-pumping pomp to their interaction on “Comma” that nevertheless feels as innocent as the town square on a holiday afternoon. They imbue Charles Mingus’ “Jive Five Floor Four” with an unguarded, near-slapstick feeling of goodwill. “Dancing Close and Slow” is their latest affectionate tribute to the gently melodic country-blues ballads of yore.

But the trio’s maturation on this outing is perhaps most due to the enhanced influence of Blade. With his Fellowship Band and his 2009 Mama Rosa project, the drummer-composer had long demonstrated his affinity for the distinctive way Miles and Frisell approached Americana jazz. But the familiarity he gleaned during the Quiver sessions pays off with a fuller membership in the proceedings here. Be it from his perch in the background-the rich textures of his percussion on “Comma,” the jaunty weight he subtly adds to Miles’ uncharacteristically bold title track-or his more central, propulsive role on “The Flesh Is Weak” and another Mingus cover, “Reincarnation of a Lovebird,” Blade increasingly feels irreplaceable.

Listen to or download this album at iTunes.

Originally Published