Ron Miles: I Am a Man review – an understated session with a powerful grip

(Enja/YellowBird)

Cornetist and trumpeter Ron Miles connects African American blues and gospel roots to the tangled branches of contemporary genre-bending jazz with rare perceptiveness. On this set of originals, named after a civil rights-era proclamation, Miles draws regular collaborator Bill Frisell, pianist Jason Moran, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Brian Blade into seven cool thematic and improv conversations. Enhanced by Miles giving his partners the whole score, not just their own parts, these are breezy early-swing figures mixed with modern time-stretches, and graceful sways like 60s Miles Davis, tugged at by free jazz, deep-toned dirges.

The brittle and then soaring title track establishes the group’s collective alertness, while Darken My Door segues between quiet piano lyricism, romantic turbulence and country grooves. Revolutionary Congregation mixes tenderness and raw multiphonic brass effects. Mother Juggler is a beautiful lament, and Is There Room in Your Heart for a Man Like Me is a rolling ensemble feature that keeps its narrative shape. It is often an understated session, but it exerts a powerful grip.

Contributor

John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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