Yet Another Warm, Tuneful Album from Ron Miles
Anything Ron Miles and Bill Frisell do together is worth hearing. The trumpeter/cornetist has long played the role of deep soul sage to the guitarist’s high plains drifter, going back over ten years. While Miles’ latest album Quiver is not without its moments of unease, it’s as generally warm and upbeat as you would expect. It’s got the same conversational feel as their 2002 duo album, Heaven, although this time the group is expanded to include Brian Blade on drums, Frisell’s artful use of implied melody making it less obvious that there’s a bass missing.
While mostly a studio project, there are a couple of intriguingly shapeshifting live tracks, begininng with Bruise, the opening tune. There’s a lot of swing on this album, and there’s some on this tune, along with syncopated minimalism, a little catchy New Orleans funk, minor modes on the trumpet trading off against the blues of the guitar. For a group that goes as many places in the span of seven minutes or so, they hold it together with the kind of casual repartee that has defined their collaborations over the years. Likewise, the closing cut, Guest of Honor perfectly capsulizes the album’s appeal, equal parts Americana – sort of a bouncier take on Townes Van Zandt’s No Place to Fall – set to an altered Crescent City shuffle.
The spare, echoey, allusive jazz waltz Queen B gives Frisell a platform for his signature big-sky pensiveness: throughout the song, they allude tantalizingly to a well-known highway rock theme (the BoDeans? Matt Keating? Don’t you hate it when you can’t identify the song?). Mr. Kevin, a ballad, is classic Miles, soulfully resonant trumpet slowly leading the band into funkier territory where Blade finally decides to give it some boom before they take out with a jaunty dance. And the funky rhythms of Rudy Go Round quickly coalesce into a nonchalant, swinging, conversational shuffle that eventually expands to include the drums as it winds out.
There are also some intriguing covers. The early swing classic There Ain’t No Sweet Man Worth the Salt of My Tears warps and weaves slowly in and out of pulse, Frisell’s resonant minimalism contrasting with Miles’ expansive legato over Blade’s judiciously counterintuitive accents. Just Married rides Frisell’s Mystery Train allusions, moving toward rockabilly until Miles decides to take the whole thing a little further outside. In the same vein, Duke Ellington’s Doin’ the Voom Voom swings along bracingly on modernized guitar harmonies – it’s the one place on the album where the addition of bass would take it to the next level. And Days of Wine and Roses hangs on the offbeats, Frisell shadowing Miles for much of it until Blade breaks it up with a richly resonant cymbal interlude. It’s all good and out now from Enja Records.
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