Guitarist Bill Frisell has collaborated with dozens of musicians, but nobody seems to match his simultaneously vigilant and easygoing sensibility as profoundly as trumpeter-composer Ron Miles. A decade after their gently captivating duets on Heaven, this trio sequel, with the inspired complement of Brian Blade on drums, nestles against the contours of your imagination the way handsewn moccasins coddle your feet — with a cozy, utilitarian simplicity.
It’s hard to overstate the intimacy of the interplay between trumpet and guitar here. It creates the assumption that Miles and Frisell share similar senses of humor, pathos and justice, and that they move through life at the same pace, with a particular appreciation for patience and modesty. Blade — whose long stint in a quartet led by the capacious intellect of Wayne Shorter has honed his skill at punctuation perhaps better than any current drummer — signals and shades the pauses and endings of the trio’s interplay in a manner that heightens their emphasis and purpose, a crucial role when the stylists are as subtle as Miles and Frisell can be.
As with Heaven, Miles bookends the song list with originals, and places his revamped covers of vintage tunes in the middle. “Queen B” might be the quintessential Ron Miles song — a tender yet tensile mixture of Americana and jazz that is resolutely restrained and yet utterly compelling for its entire 6:25. The trio takes “There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth the Salt of My Tears,” which was played for jaunty goofs in the flapper era of the 1920s, and injects its swing with some morphine blues and lamentation. Duke Ellington’s similarly caffeinated 1920′s track, “Doin’ The Vroom Vroom,” is slowed differently, with wind beneath its sails that billows the melody. In between them is a Miles original, “Just Married,” that has the catchy innocence of an updated pop tune from a bygone period. The cheap way to evoke all of this, especially for a guitarist and a trumpeter, is with twang and blare. But the trio trust that the musical arrows in their quiver will be more exacting and penetrating than that. And their aim is true.