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Drummer Butch Miles was born on July 4, 1944 in Ironton, Ohio. The family eventually moved to West Virginia, which is where he grew up. Currently he resides in Austin, Texas with his wife, Linda.

He began playing drums at age 9 and by his mid-teens was playing professionally with dance bands. Over the years he has played with many of the biggest names in the music world, including the Count Basie Orchestra (1975-1979 and 1997-2007), Mel Torme, Dave Brubeck, Zoot Sims, Sammy Davis Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Tony Bennett, Gerry Mulligan, and many others.

On May 30 of this year he was part of the backing band for Joan Rivers when she performed at the Paramount Theater in Austin. On July 29, he had a lung transplant and has since been recuperating at home. From his Facebook page (link below) it appears he will be returning to performing early in 2015.

Butch Miles has released several records under his own name, and the one I want to tell you about is the 2003 release on the Nagel-Heyer Label, “Straight On ‘Till Morning”.

Butch Miles - Straight On 'Till Morning

Butch Miles – Straight On ‘Till Morning

The personnel for this one are:

Butch Miles, drums
Bob Ojeda, trumpet
Lynn Seton, bass
Bill Porter, trombone

With special guests:
Kenny Drew Jr., piano
Doug Lawrence, tenor sax
Frank Wess, tenor sax
Alex Saudargas, classical guitar on “Dreamsville” only

“Straight On ‘Till Morning” consists of eleven songs, and hits the ground running with the first one, “Hangover Blues.” This is a great song that packs a lot of punch into its comparatively short running time. All horns are up for the beginning, giving it a decidedly brassy start. The trumpeter Ojeda steps forward and takes the lead, with leader Miles adding more brass with his ride cymbal.

Track two, “Another Drum Thing”, likewise takes flight immediately. Miles cut his teeth on swing, and understands that music is supposed to move! Lawrence gives us a great show with his tenor sax and is followed by Seton with his bass and Ojeda’s trumpet. Miles in the background does a splendid job supporting them all. Which is what one would expect from a drummer with his background.

“Frank’s Blues” is next. This is another one of those lively “let’s party!” songs that Miles does so well. Lawrence’s nicely mellow tenor gives the song a feeling of depth, while Seton’s bass brings it down to earth. Miles and his ride cymbal gives it that touch of brilliance that brings a song alive. About three minutes in we are treated to a bit of scat from an unnamed source (Miles, perhaps?) Then the brass returns and takes it to the end.

The fourth song, “Cute”, opens with Miles beating out an almost military cadence for the first few seconds. Then Frank Wess steps away from his usual instrument, the tenor sax, and instead treats us to a display of his virtuosity on the flute. This is Wess’ only appearance on the album, which is a shame. As good as the album is (and it is good, believe me), a talent like Wess’ could only make it even better.

Next we have Henry Mancini’s “Dreamsville” (from the 1950’s TV series “Peter Gunn”), featuring Alex Saudargas doing a classical guitar solo for the first two minutes. This is a noted departure from the hectic pace of its predecessors. I never heard of Saudargas prior to this, and I have to admit he does a great job. Then the rest of the band joins in, the pace quickens, and the simple, quiet ballad is transformed into a lively swing number.

An animated version of “When You Wish Upon A Star” follows. Lawrence on sax is a standout here, although the rest of the participants are by no means slouches either.

“After Hours” is one of my favorite songs. Everyone does a great job on this one, but Kenny Drew Jr. and his piano are outstanding.

At this point I’m going to have to close out this review and perhaps revisit the fantastic album after I’ve discovered why my browser of choice, Firefox, has crapped out on me. Trying to visit the links I have for this album using Internet Explorer is a pain because they all need to be typed in manually.

So for now let’s just leave it at this: “Straight On ‘Till Morning” would absolutely make an excellent addition to your personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night!

For more information about Butch Miles and his music, here are a few places to check out:

His web site has a lot of great info. His Facebook page, which he has been updating regularly if not frequently throughout his recovery from his lung transplant. There is a nice bio of him on Drummer World. (You have to scroll down past a few cool photos of Miles in action to get to the article.)

Last but not least, the Austin Jazz Society has established a fund to help support Butch and his wife Linda while he continues to recover from his lung transplant surgery earlier this year. Please consider making a donation. Details are available here. Credit cards and PayPal can be used.
Thanks for reading this.

Al Evans
Wood Village, Oregon

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