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Ron Miles: Quiver

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In a joint interview with writer Ted Panken four years ago, trumpeter Ron Miles and guitarist Bill Frisell-who’ve collaborated often over a nearly two-decade span-were asked what aesthetic principles they shared. Miles responded, “You try to keep the integrity of the song going as long as you can. Sometimes you step out and sometimes you step back, but you’re always present with everybody on the bandstand.” That common approach holds true on Quiver, where the two are joined only by drummer Brian Blade, who, it would appear from the results, concurs wholeheartedly. The bond is unmistakable and asserted in every track.

If the absence of a bassist suggests a rhythmic and melodic hole, it simply doesn’t exist: Frisell, taking to his lower strings, and Blade, working his bass drum and toms, have that covered. (Frisell had decades of practice in perhaps the best bass-less group in jazz history, Paul Motian’s trio featuring the guitarist and Joe Lovano.) Quiver remains robust and engaging even while the players demonstrate a mutual understanding of the value of breathing room, and if it seems that a trumpet-guitar-drums trio might need to work extra hard to generate sparks, that just happens naturally. And it happens without grandstanding. No one is striving for complexity. Miles’ and Frisell’s lines are largely fluid and relatively linear, if rarely anticipated; Blade is limber-limbed but precise. Quiver is a classic confluence of like minds.

All but three of the nine tracks are Miles compositions, one of which, “Just Married,” led off 2002’s Miles-Frisell duets album, Heaven. Here its Americana root is given extra wattage, making stops in Memphis and New Orleans. Miles’ trumpet breathes bravado and warmth on tracks such as “Mr. Kevin” and the Monk-like “Rudy-Go-Round,” but some of the most daring turns are reserved for the three standards, particularly the ’20s blues “There Ain’t No Sweet Man Worth the Salt of My Tears.” Unfussy and unadorned, its near 11 minutes are also packed with grit and sweat, that aforementioned integrity front and center throughout.

Originally Published