Amanda Schwengel and Cory Phare

September 25, 2020

Arts and Culture

VIDEO: Ron Miles makes Blue Note Records debut with ‘Rainbow Sign’

The jazz luminary talks truth in music, how his father’s death affected the new album and signing with the legendary label.

Amanda Schwengel and Cory Phare

September 25, 2020


Jazz luminary Ron Miles builds bridges with his Blue Note Records debut.

As musician in residence at Metropolitan State University of Denver, the Grammy-nominated cornetist, trumpeter and composer helps his students draw connections among seminal jazz artists to better understand our shared experience.

His forthcoming album, “Rainbow Sign,” to be released Oct. 9, explores the many metaphorical connections made by rainbows.

“There’s this idea of rainbows being a highway from heaven to earth and that we can go back and forth to visit,” he said. “Now, it also means inclusion and love and courage … and to meet the test to be positive, vigilant, and still love in the face of negativity we constantly encounter.”

Miles composed the majority of the album in summer 2018 as his father passed away. Its nine tracks span a spectrum of emotion and compassion, from the delicately airy second single “The Rumor” to the bouncing kinetic romp “Custodian of the New,” a tribute to Miles’ father – himself a custodian. That song wraps in a jam session that wears its ’70s-inspired funk tinge on its jumpsuit sleeve.

“Rainbow Sign” also reaches back to Miles’ internationally acclaimed 2017 album “I Am a Man.” It was inspired by the Memphis sanitation-worker strike of 1968, which subsequently brought the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to the city where the civil-rights leader would be assassinated.

Faithfully documenting one’s truth and sharing it with others in all of its many facets permeates “Rainbow Sign” and couldn’t be more relevant for artists in today’s contemporary reality, he said.

“I think it’s about being open and loving – and challenging, too,” Miles said. “Challenging to say, ‘We can do better; I know it’s in you to do better because it’s in me, too.’ I don’t have to look far to see people messing up; I can look in the mirror every day.”

“I hope listeners are able to find their truth in it. That when they hear it, it’ll make them think of something, make them feel something that’s special and unique to them. Wherever you are in your journey, hopefully it’ll speak to you in some way,” Ron Miles said of “Rainbow Sign.” Photo by Amanda Schwengel

Understated ferocity is found throughout “Rainbow Sign” in the natural chemistry Miles showcases along with pianist Jason Moran, guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Brian Blade.

The legendary Blue Note label is a natural fit for such a wide-ranging connective force as Miles. But true to form, his reaction, and advice to players looking to advance their own craft, remains as cool as ever.

“It’s nice to have that affirmation (of signing to Blue Note Records),” he said. “I’m not even young and hip; if it can happen for someone who’s almost 60, you’re going to be just fine.

“Do your music, stay true to what you believe in, and it’ll work out in the end.”

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