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Trumpeter and educator Ron Miles

A bald Black man wearing glasses and a suit blows into a trumpet.
Dirk Neven, PDM-owner, via Wikimedia Commons
PDM-owner via Wikimedia Commons
Ron Miles performing in Amsterdam in 2013.

Beloved educator, trumpeter and cornetist Ron Miles died in March. Here's Mary McCann's impressionistic tribute.

One question: Can you name a world class jazz trumpeter with "Miles" in their name?

Miles Davis is the quick answer. Top sales, brilliant ideas, composer and major innovator in jazz, YES! He tops one of the highest peaks of jazz, but jazz has many pinnacles, mesas and craggy tors needed to build the jazz mountain range. Jazz is the natural, transformative force of music.

It takes the whole range to lift a peak Miles high. The lower peaks are not lesser pinnacles in the range, they are essential to the revolutionary height Miles Davis could reach. Put that Miles aside, and turn your ear to another high point, this one nurtured by the Rocky Mountains.

In Denver, Colorado, an 11 year old flourished first in classical music and then he found jazz. He followed a more impressionistic path, not a commercial one. He’s the one we celebrate today. He fills the brief from the opening line in this story. This youth was Ron Miles.

Ron Miles became a highly admired trumpeter, composer, and educator. Some music writers say he'd have been bigger news if he was not off in Denver, but on the East Coast in the jazz hot spots.

Another reason may be that Miles was a progressive artist bent toward harmonically nuanced, genre-bending jazz. He didn't dwell in the mainstream, but he knew well what it was.

When Ron Miles blew his horn he hit it out of the park, into new territory with music unknown until he made it through his horn.

In his 35 year music career Ron Miles issued 12 albums as a leader.

In 2020, he issued his debut disc for the storied Blue Note Records, Rainbow Sign, his 12th and final record.

Ron Miles was a deeply spiritual man, and this final disc, Rainbow Sign, was written with the knowledge he collected in a journey of compassion, love and respect through caring for his father in that man's last days.

Ron Miles chose the progressive jazz path for his career, and as we jazz fans grow deeper roots, they allow us go deeper into jazz and that may guide us to embrace more genius "outsider" artists like Ron Miles, and help expand our own personal view of what mainstream means.

Much like appreciation for wine, the more you learn, the more you love and with more love you can find that it takes an educated palate to drink from the avant-garde, and discover that the future out there is rich in nourishment for our souls.

On March 8, 2022, we found out that Ron Miles, progressive jazz trumpeter, artist, became a jazz scout in the great beyond.

God speed, Ron Miles.

Thank you for listening.

Mary McCann is a poet and performer and madly in love with music. She?s written three one woman shows and had her poetry published by Arizona State University. Broadcast radio was her life from age 17 on. In 1999 she had a pioneering role in Internet radio during the dot com boom in Silicon Valley. Mary is currently the World Music Director at AOL Internet radio and one of the narrators for BirdNote. She started at KNKX in June of 2008 as the host of the Saturday Jazz Matinee.