Jazz drumming great Butch Miles has died at 78
Date Posted: 2023-02-15

The world is mourning the loss of one of the giants of Jazz. The gentle hearted yet fiercely swinging jazz/big band drummer Butch Miles passed away on February 2, 2023. Butch's storied career is rivaled by few. He had his first big break in 1971 when he was hired by Mel Torme. An even bigger break came in 1975 when on the recommendation of Torme and fellow drummer Buddy Rich, Miles was hired as a substitute for the Count Basie Orchestra. Apparently Butch already knew most of the arrangements from the records and Basie quickly decided to keep him full time. Butch's first stint with the band lasted until 1979 when he decided to join Dave Brubeck.

At this point, Butch was on nearly everyone's radar and appeared with countless names including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Herman, Lena Horne, Clark Terry, Joe Williams, Benny Goodman, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Gerry Mulligan, and Zoot Sims just to name a few. He was also in the sights of the above-mentioned Buddy Rich who would often reference Butch in the context of a fierce rivalry. Miles said after Buddy Rich did this on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson it did wonders for his career. It was the kind of publicity that money couldn't buy.

Butch Miles was also considered one of the nicest, mild-mannered musicians in the business. I was personally privileged to experience this delightful disposition on a European tour back in 2014. His professionalism, however, was particularly striking. The tour occurred not long after Butch received a lung transplant due to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which left him tired and often gasping for air. He would take in portable oxygen during the intermission, but the audience had no idea. All they saw was a smiling, swinging, energetic drummer playing like no other drummer they had ever seen live. Butch loved putting his extraordinary talents on display and it showed. Video of this tour can be found on YouTube and it is astounding to watch knowing what he was dealing with health wise.

During his career Butch Miles recorded over 100 albums, and we here at GHB Jazzology are very proud to offer no less than 21 of these. The photo used for the cover of PCD-7173 "The Butch Miles Sextet- Salutes Gene Krupa" is prominently displayed in our office. Butch Miles will be sorely missed by all who knew him whether personally or through his remarkable music.

Duke Heitger

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