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Laughing Barrel by Ron Miles Quartet

Ron Miles is a trumpeter with no sense of musical boundary. The Denver musician who has worked with Bill Frisell, Don Byron and Ginger Baker, among others, is as capable of a jaunty melody as driving musical dynamism or a walk on the outside. The band that he brings to this project is superb. Indeed, it is the group, rather than the leader, that dominates this most democratic of musical milieus. Still, as sole composer on the recording, it is the many aspects of his musical personality that are glimpsed on Laughing Barrel. The tandem and contrasting lines with guitarist Brandon Ross, layered over Rudy Royston’s cymbals and rolling toms and Anthony Cox’s thoughtful bass on the opening "Parade" showcases the group’s dynamic interplay superbly. The shift is ever so slightly to the left on "New Breed Leader." By "Psychedelic Black Man" the shift is complete, more pronounced and conspicuous. Ross’s guitar, with its unusual and clever tuning moves over drum and bass before the trumpet is introduced in a tune notable for its deceptive sense of formlessness. The bass solo here is stunning, intelligent and woody. "Still Small Voice" is the introspective piece of the set, with Miles’ breathy phrasing dominating. "Jesus Loves Me," the longest piece here, begins with a contemplative bass, adds brushes on cymbals and fingers barely brushed against guitar stings and a lyrical trumpet. It builds to quick, darting runs, particularly on guitar, for an emotionally compelling group performance. Miles’ trumpet work on "Sunday Best" has a flugelhorn warm quality on a tune noteworthy for its western, cowboy theme. Here is one of the most engaging tunes of the collection, if for no other reason than that it comes completely out of left field. There are some cliché wide open spaces lines here, part Copeland, part essence of Marty Robbins. Utterly surprising and smile inducing. The closing "Fairy Court" takes place outside the box. Everyone is at the most adventuresome best, though guitarist Ross is in command throughout. He has worked with Archie Shepp and Cassandra Wilson in the past and his complete and total command of the instrument makes it certain that his resume will continue grow after this project. The drums are fiery, the bass solid and Ron Miles’ trumpet work incisive and brilliant. Miles would have been proud. This is a treat from open to close.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ron Miles Quartet
  • CD Title: Laughing Barrel
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Sterling Circle
  • Rating: Four Stars
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