Photos by Derek Miles
Review by Ben Waligoske
As I sit reflecting on last night’s Ron Miles Trio performance at Dazzle Jazz in Denver, I cannot help but to return to a singular, simple word to describe the evening’s music – sublime.
In front of a reverent, appreciative audience that spanned more than a couple generations of music lovers, the Trio – which featured Bill Frisell on electric guitar and Brian Blade on drums – treated the crowd to a seven song set that was a true demonstration of the beauty, curiosity, and malleability that jazz music is capable of in truly capable hands.
Opening the set with a delicate rendition of Charles Mingus’ “Reincarnation of a Love Bird,” the group seemed to draw the crowd in with the tune’s avante-garde, harmonic sensibility and introspective nature. Miles’ trumpet work was stunning from the first note, while Frisell and Blade covered the rhythm of the tune. I was immediately made aware of a theme that would resurface throughout the night – Frisell’s ability to compliment Blade’s intricate backbeats with playing that held serious sonic weight. His textural, neck-spanning guitar lines helped to fill the void left in the absence of a true bassist while still remaining suggestive enough with his chord work to inspire Miles to great heights- an interaction that remained impressive throughout the set.
Further, I’d be doing Blade a discredit if I held my description of his playing last night to the simplistic characterization of “intricate.” Without a doubt, his ability to drive the band while generally remaining at a hauntingly quiet level was utterly professional, and extremely fun to watch and listen to. He moved all over his kit and also worked in some exotic percussion tools – bells, various drumsticks, etc. – which truly gave the audience a spectacle to behold, and also gave wonderful accents to the lead lines being traded by Miles and Frisell.
Due to my relative unfamiliarity with Blades’ talents prior to last night, his light touch and familiarity behind the drum kit may have been the biggest surprise of the evening. And as if his musical talent weren’t enough, his demeanor and constant smiles, laughs, and groans while playing made him seem very affable and approachable (and reminded this writer of one Keith Jarrett’s onstage mannerisms). These themes ran true throughout the set, with Miles and Frisell trading melody lines and rhythm, floating over Blade’s delicate backdrop – an exercise in heady jazz throughout.
After spanning an hour and a half’s time, the Trio finished the evening with an upbeat encore performance of Thelonious Monk’s “Mysterioso,” spurred on by a raucous standing ovation from the audience. The closing number – announced by Miles’ playing Monk’s classic line followed by Frisell’s excellent counterpoint work – was a finely performed, contemplative exclamation point on an already superb evening that fulfilled every expectation I could have had. In a word – sublime!