Bandmates to honor late jazz great Ron Miles with ‘Rainbow Sign’
MSU Denver Music Department to host concert featuring the work of legendary cornetist and devoted educator.
When the jazz world learned of the death of legendary trumpeter and cornetist Ron Miles last March, his fellow musicians in Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Music Department wanted to honor him immediately.
But they also knew family, friends and music lovers across the country needed time and space to process and mourn the loss of such an influential figure in American Jazz. Miles’ improvisational and compositional skills earned international acclaim, and his decades as a music educator influenced the lives of so many young musicians.
“We were just devastated last spring,” said vocalist and pianist Dawn Clement, a longtime fan of Miles who performed with him several times on stage before joining Miles on the faculty of MSU Denver’s Jazz Program in 2018.
“With the loss of Ron and the beautiful things happening with his music — he had just signed with (iconic music label) Blue Note — it seemed obvious we needed to do something to honor him,” she said. “But honestly, it wasn’t the right time until now.”
MSU Denver will pay tribute to the Grammy-nominated jazz great Feb. 10 with a concert featuring the musicians who played with Miles on his 2020 Blue Note debut “Rainbow Sign.” The album, influenced by the death of Miles’ father, explores metaphorical connections made by rainbows — “this idea of rainbows being a highway from heaven to earth,” as Miles put it.
RELATED VIDEO: Ron Miles makes Blue Note Records debut with ‘Rainbow Sign’
Acclaimed guitarist Bill Frisell, pianist Jason Moran, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Brian Blade will take the stage at the King Performing Arts Center for a show that will benefit the newly established Ron Miles Endowed Scholarship. It was set up in the wake of Miles’ death to support aspiring jazz musicians at MSU Denver, especially students who come from underserved communities.
Support the Ron Miles Endowed Scholarship
Honor Miles’ legacy as a dedicated teacher and mentor by helping aspiring jazz musicians, especially students from underserved communities, to achieve their dreams. Donate here.
“We knew that Ron wanted to create a scholarship. That was our first priority, to get one up and running in his name,” said Peter Schimpf, chair of MSU Denver’s Department of Music, who noted Miles’ passion for mentoring all of his students, whether they were gifted and experienced performers or beginners.
“Ron’s legacy is his humility in music and in teaching,” Schimpf said. “It was remarkable that someone of his stature and playing around the world would give them all the same amount of time.”
The memorial concert and fundraiser is part of the three-day Mile High Jazz Festival, in which music students from high schools across the state will gather on the Auraria Campus to perform and take part in workshops taught by accomplished jazz musicians.
MSU Denver has hosted the festival, which is in its 58th year, since 2019, Clement said. She thought this year’s collaboration would be the perfect opportunity to honor Miles’ legacy as a musician and educator, so she began working to organize the headline concert “Rainbow Sign: The Music of Ron Miles.”
In addition to performing, Miles’ bandmates will teach a clinic for high school students participating in the festival, something the founder of MSU Denver’s Jazz Program would appreciate.
“Ron was a community-builder who made connections,” Clement said.
Update: This event is sold out.
“Rainbow Sign: The Music of Ron Miles” will take place Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m., at the King Center Concert Hall. Tickets are $15–60; MSU Denver students/faculty/staff can claim free tickets by registering on the King Center website.
Miles’ all-star quintet of himself, Frisell, Blade, Moran and Morgan first played together on his highly acclaimed 2017 release “I Am a Man.” Frisell and Blade were also featured on 2012’s “Quiver” and 2014’s “Circuit Rider.”
Miles and Frisell, graduates of Denver’s East High School, were inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2017 and performed together, along with Blade, at the induction ceremony that year.
The Feb. 10 concert honoring Miles will feature “top-shelf” jazz and will be one of the highest-profile concerts in the city this year, Schimpf said.
“Not only are the performers people who played with Ron; some are living legends of jazz,” he said. “And to have the concert feature Ron’s music in honor of Ron is amazing.”