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Ron Miles & Bill Frisell Two's a (Quietly Harmonious) Crowd

SOURCE: Published: 2008-08-20
Ron Miles Some partnerships in jazz go beyond sensitivity or even shared intuition. At their best they can suggest something more mysterious, like weather patterns. When you encounter a bond of this sort between musicians operating at full capacity, the air changes slightly in the room.

The trumpeter Ron Miles and the guitarist Bill Frisell have one of these relationships, stretching back at least a dozen years. Each has appeared on the other's albums, and in 2002 they made a quietly sublime duo record, Heaven. For a few nights last week they also shared a stage at the Jazz Standard, in a flexible quartet under Mr. Miles's direction. On Thursday, closing out the engagement, they confirmed the strength of their rapport.

Both musicians can be counted on to express a spirit of harmonious introspection. The set's opener, “Unconditional," a drifting waltz by Mr. Miles, presented some warm and characteristic beauty, along with a deceptively simple form. Soloing on cornet, Mr. Miles was lyrical and sensible, conjugating his ideas in an easy flow, one phrase at a time. Mr. Frisell accompanied him intently: more than once he landed on an unusual chord at the precise moment that Mr. Miles needed it to bolster a melodic whim.

The quartet's attentive other half created necessary ballast. Though not a regular rhythm team, the bassist Reginald Veal and the drummer Matt Wilson worked sturdily together, bringing a sense of earthy proportion to Mr. Miles's summery compositions. Their most engaging work, though, came on a pair of crisply swinging jazz tunes: “Wig Wise," by Duke Ellington, and “Criss Cross," by Thelonious Monk.


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