Denver-based jazz legend Ron Miles has died, a member of the MSU Denver Jazz Studies department confirmed in an interview with CPR’s Ryan Warner today. He was 58.
Miles was an acclaimed trumpeter, cornetist and composer. An internationally renowned artist who performed all over the world, Miles was also deeply embedded in Denver’s local music community, where he was known by many as a kind, talented musician and a leader in Denver’s jazz scene, educating generations of performers as the Jazz Studies Coordinator at Metropolitan State University of Denver. In 2017, he was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.
In an interview with Denverite last fall, Miles spoke about his excitement at seeing a “bubbling-up” of new talent as young Denver musicians were coming up in the jazz scene — many of whom he hadn’t heard before because the pandemic had shut down jazz clubs.
“They’re coming back just blazing with energy. It’s like they can’t wait to show what they’ve been working on,” Miles said. “The music is always going to change. So you can get on board and check out the new stuff, or you can just be left in the dust.
“You know, we’re all just here for a short time,” he continued. “So while we’re here, we might as well just see if we can make a positive impact on our community and the folks that are coming up afterwards to keep the message moving, and keep the community growing.”
Miles was born in Indianapolis in 1963. At the age of 11 he moved to Denver, where he attended East High School. As a teen, he would often ride the bus downtown to attend shows at classic Denver jazz venues like El Chapultepec.
Miles went on to study music at the University of Denver and the Manhattan School of Music. He has recorded for the labels Prolific, Capri, Gramavision, Sterling Circle and Blue Note and performed with renowned artists like Joshua Redman, Bill Frisell, Mercer Ellington, Don Byron, Joe Henry, Madeleine Peyroux, Jason Moran and the Bad Plus. The New York Times called Miles a “natural melodist with an openhearted style” and a “knack for pairing strong melodies with stealth convolutions of form.”
Miles recently performed as the headliner for the 2020 Colorado Matters Holiday Extravaganza, where he spoke about his now realized dream of recording for Blue Note. You can watch the full performance here.
This is a developing story and will be updated.