Bandmates will share the spirit of Ron Miles’ music in tribute performance at TACAW

Jazz quartet “Rainbow Sign” will perform at The Arts Campus at Willits (TACAW) on Saturday, honoring the life and music of the band’s late cornet player Ron Miles.

The band will be playing Miles’ music from the “Rainbow Sign” album; drummer Brian Blade said the album is also the group’s namesake.

Blade said the group may also perform new songs Miles wrote before the horn player died of complications from a rare blood disorder in March of 2022. Blade joins guitarist Bill Frisell, pianist Jason Moran and bassist Thomas Morgan in the quartet performance this weekend.

“Ron had an amazingly creative mind, but through the thread of complexity, there was still this beauty and melodicism,” Blade said in a Zoom interview on Wednesday.

Blade recalled Miles’ love for music beyond genre, and the “unshakeable joy” he brought to performances even through the pain of illness.

Though the performance at TACAW this weekend will likely be a more “contemplative experience” than a raucous show, audiences may still find themselves moving to the music “if the spirit moves them that way,” Blade said with a laugh.

Blade said the band hopes to carry on Miles’ spirit by embracing the messages of the music that Miles championed.

“Ron was, I think, on a mission to speak to staying aware, staying vigilant, being present with each other,” Blade said.

There are other themes, too, paralleling the writing of James Baldwin — “thoughts on equality and inequality and man’s inhumanity to man, and how to remedy that,” Blade said.

The band, “Rainbow Sign,” and Baldwin’s 1963 book “The Fire Next Time,” both derive their names from the same spiritual, “God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water but fire next time.”

According to Blade, Miles used his compositions to explore the remedies of injustice.

“I think the music for Ron was a big part of that … to offer a sort of healing balm of harmony and rhythm and melody,” Blade said.  

In the wake of Miles’ death, Blade said the music has been a balm for him, too, as he navigates the grief and loss of his band’s leader.

“We hope to carry that same spirit, even in his absence, to embrace his voice,” Blade said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, tickets are still available for the “Rainbow Sign” performance as well as a combination “dinner and show” with a menu from Epicure Catering’s Julia and Allen Domingos.

The dinner begins at 6 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday.