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Ron Miles – Old Main Chapel

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Printed Date: 12 Jul 2024 at 11:49pm
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Topic: Ron Miles – Old Main Chapel
Posted By: snobb
Subject: Ron Miles – Old Main Chapel
Date Posted: 11 May 2024 at 10:53am

Ron Miles feat. Bill Frisell + Brian Blade – ‘Old Main Chapel’, rec.2011 

Ron Miles – Old Main Chapel
(Blue Note. Review by Andrew Taylor-Dawson)
RON MILES - Old Main Chapel cover

Recorded in 2011 at a performance in Boulder. Colorado, ‘Old Main Chapel’ is a fine document of a collaboration between three musicians at the height of their powers.

The cornetist and trumpeter Ron Miles – who sadly passed away in 2022 of a rare blood disorder – leads proceedings. Recorded on the eve of sessions for what would become the album ‘Quiver’, Ron Miles’s Blue Note debut, the trio of Miles, guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Brian Blade meander their way through seven cuts, five of which would go on to feature on the album they were about to record.

Each of the five Quiver cuts is jammed out and extended in the live context. Opener ‘Mr Kevin’ has a breezy charm that belies the fluidity of the improvision around the main theme by the trio. Frisell and Blade perfectly augment Miles’ playing with their guitar and drum lines respectively.

A highly original take on the standard ‘There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth The Salt Of My Tears’ kicks off with solo from Blade, before Frisell’s guitar slides in over the top, eliciting whoops from the audience. Miles comes in with the lead melody, setting off this extraordinary rendition, which sees the three players make this piece utterly their own.  

As with most good live recordings, the sense of the occasion is there in spades. Audience noise and Blade’s periodic shouts of ‘yeah’ permeate the slowly evolving tunes. At the time of recoding, the bulk of these pieces were new and those in the audience had no sense of where they are going. The record has a genuine spontaneity and sense of adventure to it, despite its laid back aesthetic.

The only tracks not to feature on Quiver are ‘I will Be Free’ and ‘New Medium’, which close the set out. The latter rounds things off in fine style, building to some fiery playing from Miles, who bends and twists notes out of his instrument, leaning into a rougher tone in places than he does on the other pieces. Blade’s detailed drum figures and the consummate guitar picking of Frisell create a real sense of tension, which marks a notable change from preceding tracks.

While all posthumous releases are marked with a note of sadness, Old Main Chapel has captured an artist and two of his regular collaborators in fine form. Each musician contributes hugely to this charming set, which acts as a fitting tribute to its much loved and much missed leader. Highly recommended.


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