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3ology with Ron Miles by 3ology with Ron Miles

Trumpeter Ron Miles is one of those musicians who is always doing something that is worth paying attention to. This disc – prosaically titled 3ology With Ron Miles - is no exception. 3ology is a Denver-based saxophone – bass – drums trio that performs groove-based improvised music. Clearly, these three fellows have been playing together for quite some time – they've established a rich and multi-layered rapport, and never fall prey to all the sorts of excesses I associate with free improvisation - groove-based or otherwise. Rarely atonal or rhythmically 'free', 3ology's spontaneous creations hew towards moody modal soundscapes with funky backbeat-oriented rhythms, with Doug Carmichael's saxophones in the foreground. If this description is as insufficient as I suspect it is, imagine what Medeski, Martin, and Wood would sound like if John Medeski played the tenor saxophone instead of multi-keyboards, and you'll be sort of in the ballpark. The groove aspect of the trio's playing is most apparent on straightforwardly funky, fusion-derived pieces such as 'Aw Dude' and 'Flight of the Neo-cerebral Peace Iguana.' But these guys are stylistically very open, and do not stick to one modus operandi for very long.

Ron Miles, one of the most sensitive and intelligent musicians I can think of, steps right into 3ology's hermetic world and makes the sparks really fly. His playing - as you'd expect - is the highlight, but he doesn't steal the show completely. Rather, there's a feeling of exchange and equality here. Carmichael, no slouch himself, latches on to Miles' ideas really quickly – and Miles returns the favor when Carmichael initiates something - and the duo come up with some really excellent lines. A good example is the harmonized, syncopated figure that becomes a sort of melody after Tim Carmichael's wonderful bass solo opens 'Back in Hotchitakee.' These guys also know when to back off – as they do later on in the same track to let Miles probe ahead, unaccompanied. The really impressive thing about this CD is the musicians' restraint - there are climactic moments of excess, but they're only moments. I get the sense, throughout, that these guys are really actively listening to each other all the time. There's also a fair amount of variety here musically. 'Nightmares of My Youth' is a slow-rolling dirge replete with malleted toms, dissonant arco bass, and muttering horns, that gathers and then dissipates like a thundercloud over the desert. Miles sits out on the mellow and tender 'Zero Miles,' which starts out as a drifting free ballad, and evolves into a pretty, somewhat melancholy, dialogue between bassist Tim Carmichael and his brother on alto. The quirkiest piece, 'For Don,' has Miles soloing eloquently over the trio's hand-clapped rhythms. The quartet also works effectively with a mutated slow blues ('Jimmyin' the Bakin' Shack') and ECM-ish jazz noir ('Gonna Leave a Mark'), the latter benefits particularly from Jon Powers' excellent and highly aware drumming. This is a very solid disc, and one that I've played repeatedly.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: 3ology with Ron Miles
  • CD Title: 3ology with Ron Miles
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2010
  • Record Label: Tapestry Records
  • Rating: Three Stars
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