by Ron Wynn
Ryan Middagh Jazz Orchestra
“Live From Nashville”
But the originals are no less entertaining and spirited. Personal favorites include the opening number “The Commissioner,” with special guest trombonist Wycliffe Gordon providing spicy licks and getting fine assistance from alto saxophonist Alex Graham and bassist Patrick Atwater, and another sterling vocal number from Bethany Merritt on “Marina Arena,” with lyrics from Shirley Hilton and strong trumpet work from Jamey Simmons. Keb Mo’ brings blues fervor and energy to “It’s All Coming back as well as fine guitar work, ably supported by alto saxophonist Jovan Quallo. Don Aliquo takes center stage as the only soloist on his own composition, “Tune For Dee,” a poignant and magnificently played piece. There’s no number here that doesn’t boast tremendous musicianship, and the additional lure of this release is that it was recorded live with all the musicians in the same room, and several numbers done in one take. There’s a spontaneity and vitality here that’s more usually reserved for albums recorded in concert or in intimate clubs. However Ryan Middagh and company were able to capture the feel and reflect the sensibility of live performance in a studio, something that’s only possible when great musicians offer inspired performances of topflight material, and that’s clearly the case on “Live From Nashville.”
Folks are either going to love or loathe these tracks, there’s no room for moderation. My own favorites from the instrumental cuts are “This Is It” and “Maze,” but all of them have their value. Miles was playing quite strongly on most of them, and not attaching a wah-wah pedal or using a mute very often. He does some experimenting with phasing, incorporates some synthesizer colorations, and multi-track dubbing of his horn, but it’s mostly still the familiar sound, pace and style that’s always been his forte. Never one to do a lot of upper register fireworks or rapid-fire solos, he plays with a mixture of aggression and poignancy.
As for this band, it won’t go down among his greatest, but they provided him the beats he wanted and his nephew Vince Wilburn, also the drummer for several cuts, is largely responsible for doing the work to get these sessions finally issued. It’s good to hear them and always a treat to hear Miles.