Embodying all that is cool
Miles Davis said, “Cool is what’s happening next, it’s a kaleidoscope encompassing past, present and future. This timeless quality, when it applies to music, allows minimalist debate – with few exceptions, that which has been cool will always be cool.”
Italian-Canadian trumpeter and bandleader Ron Di Lauro is familiar with the Miles Davis archetype of cool. Di Lauro, an instructor in the Popular Music program at UQAM, Jazz instructor at both McGill and the University of Montreal, will lead a sextet with a set of Miles Davis classics from the late fifties during Kingston Jazz Fest.
He will also present a full re-creation of Kind of Blue, the iconic album which remains Miles Davis' masterpiece, and one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time. The Montreal trumpet player shared his thoughts on Miles Davis, the iconic album and his love of jazz.
In conversation with Ron Di Lauro
T: How did you first discover Miles Davis?
R: My father was a musician and band leader, and a fan of the swing era. There wasn’t any bebop in our house; he loved the modern jazz so I grew up with music like opera and concert band music. When I started studying music, I was introduced to Miles Davis as one of my very first influences. It’s funny it’s come full circle. The style we’re doing is exactly that era. That cool period that he was into.
T: You work with a varied repertoire that also includes classical, pop, world music, and Klezmer, is there something about Jazz that speaks to you above the others?
R: In a sense it feels less functional because it’s very close, it’s very emotional to me and touches my heart as I’m performing it. I love to play music that I can connect with even though I’ll play any kind of music. There’s always that kind of creative versus functional sort of thing with jazz music.
T: Do you feel, even with your experience, there are challenges in covering not only one of the greatest Trumpet players of all time but one of the most renowned and best selling jazz albums?
R: The challenge is, as much as possible, to emulate the spirit of Miles Davis in the way he attacks notes and the way he limits his vibrato. He uses it sparingly which gives it such distinct sound. The mute – playing with, the chops, the lips… we attack a note or sustain a note so we’re being sensitive to the way Miles Davis did it.
T: Why this album? What is it about Kind of Blue that made it such a sensation?
R: The fact that it was distancing itself from what was popular at the time: the bebop. It centered more around improvising on the chords that had been established since the mid 40s by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. What Miles tried to do when we say ‘cool’ is to not approach the harmonies as much. He said, ‘I’m going to look at the scale, the mold of the piece.’ He was changing the style. From that point on musicians were using that album to advance into a more modern sound; it is the evolution of jazz.
Ron Di Lauro Sextet: Kind of Blue comes to Empire Life Kingston Jazz Festival on Friday, June 28 in the Regina Rosen Auditorium at the Grand Theatre.