Ron Miles, legendary Denver-based jazz musician, educator and prolific recording and stage artist has died at 58.
His death was confirmed by his label, NY-based Blue Note Records. According to a publicist there, Miles’ manager and producer Hans Wendl said that Miles died shortly before midnight on Tuesday, March 8 at his home in Denver in the presence of family. The cause was complications from polycythemia vera, a rare blood disorder, Miles’ manager said.
“Ron was such a gifted artist!” wrote Blue Note president and musician Don Was, who has recorded and played with Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Ringo Starr, in an email to The Denver Post. “He was a sweet, soulful man whose character was reflected in every exquisite note he played. We are heartbroken to lose him so soon, but he will live forever through the music he’s left behind for us.”
Miles, a Grammy-nominated trumpeter and composer who was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2017, had recently canceled a public performance at Knoxville, Tenn.’s Big Ears Festival, which he played regularly in the past. He also mentioned he was having health problems in recent weeks, though he wasn’t specific about them, said Bret Saunders, a friend, 97.3 KCBO DJ and Denver Post jazz columnist.
“He was a really warm, gentle, caring presence to be around,” Saunders said Wednesday. “And like all great artists, his persona was reflected through his music, which sounds like Colorado when you’re outside. Wide-open, lonely and vulnerable.”
Miles’ expansive career and singular, progressive voice extended to coordinating the jazz program at Metropolitan State University of Denver, along with office-mate and jazz legend Fred Hess, a tenor saxophonist and frequent musical collaborator with Miles who died in 2018.
“(Professor) Miles established himself as one of today’s most prominent jazz musicians all while teaching the next generation of musicians at the University for more than 34 years,” Metropolitan State University officials wrote in a press statement. “His music and educational contributions are truly legendary as he has left a lasting legacy.”