Like a lot of listeners, I’ve spent a good deal of time with the music of cornetist-bandleader-composer Ron Miles since learning of his March 8 passing. It’s still a shock, and I’ve often thought about his keen intelligence, his words of encouragement and his enthusiasm for sound. I never left a conversation with Miles without feeling elevated.
Back in the fall, he was announced as a headlining act at the adventurous Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tenn., which took place last weekend. We had communicated months ago about the prestigious gig, and the final text exchange between the two of us read, “Right on my dear brother!” when I told him I’d see him there.
But it wasn’t to be.
It’s difficult to express the depth of loss to our community that comes with Miles’ death. He was respected on the world stage and likely could’ve thrived in New York, but chose to make Denver his home. He clearly loved teaching at Metro State, and it appears that everyone he taught loved him.
Fifty-eight is too young to depart from the world, especially when it comes to someone who was just finally getting the respect he deserved as an artist. His first Blue Note effort, “Rainbow Sign,” was as fine as any jazz album released in 2020, and there was a 2018 Grammy nomination for his recording with saxophonist Joshua Redman, “Still Dreaming.” Even though Miles left behind a beautiful trail of music, there had to be so much more he wanted to say.
His horn resonated with history and respect for the world. To hear Ron Miles play was to hear the sound of empathy. We aren’t likely to see anyone like him for a very long time.
For vinyl aficionados, Record Store Day has become something like a holiday. This year’s RSD takes place at independent retailers on April 23, and there’s a longer-than-usual list of archival jazz projects being released on vinyl. Prepare to shell out big bucks for limited editions from Art Blakey, Bill Evans, Larry Coryell and many others.
Of the 2022 RSD releases I’ve had a chance to hear, a couple stand out. For those who celebrate, bassist Charles Mingus’ 100th birthday is April 22, and on the following day, you might be able to get your hands on “The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott’s,” recorded in England for release on CBS Records in 1972, before the label unceremoniously dropped all of its major jazz artists (except for Miles Davis) a year later. Like all live Mingus collections, it’s an unstoppable life force, and gloriously recorded. It’s strange that it took 50 years to surface.
There’s also a set from the enigmatic (and brilliant, to my ears) saxophonist Albert Ayler, “Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings,” which captures the man toward the end of his tragically short career. Not for the faint-hearted, it’s prime early ‘70s avant-garde excitement, and Ayler sounds enthusiastic and taken with the spirit of the era. For those who don’t necessarily have to possess this music on vinyl, CD versions of both sets will be available April 29. For those who do need the vinyl in order to live a fulfilling life: Good luck grabbing it on April 23.
Denver jazz performances in April: Look at this lineup playing Dazzle April 14-16: Roberta Gambarini, Houston Person, Eric Gunnison, Chuck Berhofer and Lewis Nash. … Every Friday in April at Denver’s Nocturne, Jeff Jenkins Quintet plays the music of Billy Strayhorn. … Colorado mainstay Dotsero performs at the Soiled Dove Underground April 9. … and Spyro Gyra appears at Parker’s PACE Center on April 15.
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