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July 25, 2005

Jazz Pianist Miles Black

Written by
cindy mcleod

Pianist/ composer Miles Black is a dream come true for every jazz artist and listener. We first met in the studio when we recorded Conversation With Love, having a few golden moments to get to know one another before ‘hitting it’. I had been a big fan of his long before I ever met him, having heard him on recording on many occasions, and longed to work with him from the start.

Imagine how scary it was to walk into a recording environment, having never heard the band I’d assembled for the project, indeed it was the first for us all as we’d never worked together before. I wasn’t nervous for long, for the moment we played our first note it was pure magic, and Miles was the glue. I was told recently that every student of jazz should have to write a 2500 word comparative essay on the dialogue between pianist and vocalist being the crucial element of a great vocal recording, using my recordings as the perfect examples. It speaks volumes about the sympatico nature of Miles Black’s musicianship, for this lovely comment was made by a listener who had no idea that Miles and I met at that divine moment.

Miles is one of the most empathetic and creative players I’ve ever had the privilege of working with, we had an instant connection and he put me instantly at ease. There was very little direction given about what I was after, he just intuited exactly the sound I needed. Under serious deadlines, having only one day in the studio to lay down all fourteen tracks, the music flowed as though we’d worked together for a thousand years. Miles contributed many musical ideas and feels, he was the backbone of the recording. No small wonder the man has been hired as a sideman on over 150 recordings!

Miles Black
Miles Black
*Cindy McLeod photo

I was delighted to hear the influences of some of my favourites shining through, Tommy Flanagan, Duke Ellington, Hank Jones and Monk among them. He told me later that as a young boy he used to sneak into jazz clubs and listen for hours to some of these players, learning by osmosis, and they now flow effortlessly through his pianistic voice. Miles has a way of stating a composition in a spacious and highly articulated manner, his ‘words’ clear, concise and ever-conscious of the conversation between his fellow players. The man is a technical wizard, his chops vast and dynamic, but he never overstates them, choosing to respect the composition with his own illuminated voice. I remember preparing for the recording, having a strong concept and support material ready. As it turned out, some of what I’d originally planned to record was substituted on the spot for some compositions we discovered we had a mutual love for, most notably Ellington’s Solitude. I can’t listen that cut without weeping, in fact you can hear the tears as I sing, it�s a ‘live off the floor’ take and I wouldn’t let the engineer change a thing, for Miles stunningly plays the ache of aloneness. I think Duke would be proud. As an aside, the great saxophonist PJ Perry, who joined us for this session, plays a solo on this cut that I believe is a Grammy award winner.

A dedicated father and husband, Miles makes his home in Vancouver. He’s a busy guy, high in demand as a studio musician, and is an accomplished arranger and composer. He writes music software for students of piano, and spends much of his time writing for other artists. He’s known for pulling the best out of his students, and for anyone who has the privilege of making music with the man. He is a gentle spirit, understated and humble, and his music reflects this in its beauty.

A guiding light in the jazz world, I am eternally grateful for the brilliance of those few precious hours with Miles that are now carved into history on my third CD release. May I have the privilege of repeating that experience again one day! www.milesblack.com

One comment for this post.

  1. Comment from Miles Black on January 12th, 2006 :

    aw shucks Cindy…now I’m blushing…thanks so much for the kind words. Love the CD…PJ is a god.

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