I Remember Tommy
A Memorial to Tom Miles, Jazz Trumpeter
Tom Miles

Many folks have enjoyed the interview with Tom from several years back, so I'm sure there are friends and loved ones that would like to express the ways in which knowing Tom made their lives a little bit better.

If you'd like to share some kind words, please scroll to the bottom to do so.

James Kass4/11/11 10:35 PM
I have been blessed to have had incredible trumpet teachers, music educators and mentors throughout my life. Tom was probably my first real "jazz hero," and did as much as anyone as far as inspiring me to really fall in love with playing jazz.

I was in 8th grade when I first met Tom. He was a counselor at ASU Band Camp, which was held at Camp Tontozona in the forest near Payson. At that time, Tom was a rail-thin college kid with shoulder-length hair and a turtleneck shirt, the closest thing to a "hippy" I'd ever seen. I was wearing a back brace due to curvature of the spine, and he went out of his way to spend time with me, either teaching me trumpet stuff or playing ping-pong when I couldn't participate in some of the other outdoor activities.

From that point on, whenever I'd see Tom, he still enjoyed adopting sort a mentor role for me, always encouraging me and complementing my playing. In some ways he treated me like his kid brother. Whenever we'd do a big band gig together, invariably he'd find some opportune moment during the gig to get me laughing so hard I couldn't play, slipping in some wisecrack right before we were supposed to make an exposed entrance.

Once, I remember after Tom had moved back into town after an extended absence, I got a call to play for the Four Tops at the Celebrity Theatre. I seem to remember it being at the end of the summer, because I hadn't picked up the horn in a couple of months and the call came in at the last minute. Since I rarely got called to play lead on gigs, especially for headliners, I figured it wouldn't be that big of a deal if my chops weren't real strong. I was relieved when I arrived at the gig to see Tommy sitting in the other trumpet chair. The only problem was that it had been even longer since Tom had touched his horn! He said, "Why don't you play lead, you'll do fine."
When I protested, it became apparent that it wasn't really a suggestion on Tommy's part and that he had no intention of touching the lead book. To this day I don't know if he was just being stubborn or (more likely) he was insisting I step up and start to assume a little more responsibility on the horn. I didn't think it was real funny at the time (I think it's pretty funny now!), but it turned out to be a valuable lesson. I suspect that Tommy had a lot to do with getting me on those gigs that we played together.

Tom always seemed to walk in humility, and although he knew he could play, I think he was never more underrated than in his own head. I'll certainly miss his dry wit and tasteful jazz solos. What a great musician and mentor! My life is certainly better for having known him.
Jay Wise4/12/11 10:35 AM
I was so sad to hear of Tommy's passing. He was a dear soul and a wonderful musician. During his ice show days, he'd call me whenever he was in whatever town I was living in - Texas, Iowa, Nebraska - he always found me. We'd hang out and talk, catch up and, well, you know. Tom was a singer, really played from his heart. My thoughts and prayers to go out to Kathy and his friends and loved ones in Phoenix and all over the country. We're going miss Tom Miles, he was one of a kind.
Andy Musel4/12/11 7:05 PM
Hard to believe that I won't be playing with Tommy again, at least in this life. What a sweet guy and sweet player! Those who knew him well will also miss those awful jokes that he told. It was just that when I showed up for the job, seeing Tommy there always made me feel great. Great music, great fun, great big HEART!I love you and miss you, Tommy.
Tim Teason4/12/11 8:42 PM
Tom was my brothers (Don Teason) best friend. So as a result he was one of mine as well. I used to love going over to their house and hanging out with the big boys when I was in High School with John Wise. Tom I will miss you and say hi to my Bro man. Love, Tim
Scott Henrich4/13/11 8:52 PM
I recall meeting Tommy for the first time as a young man. It was at a “social” gathering (party) where I was approached by Tommy stating, “so, you played the Sands, I did too”. Of course someone, likely John Wise or Tim Teason, had told him about my gig and this was true, as I confirmed. I then came to realize that Tommy had mistakenly thought I had played the Sands, Vegas, as he did, when actually I had played the Sands Hotel in Phoenix, on Van Buren. Ultimately, as I corrected him (slightly embarrassed), he thought it was cool anyway and made me feel at ease in an otherwise potentially awkward scene. Since then and after he still respected that I was a working musician at an early age. Although I hadn’t seen him in many years, I over the years I’ve thought of this meeting and remembered it fondly, with a chuckle to myself. I always respected Tommy’s humanity as well as his musicianship. Rest in peace, Tommy.
Bob Lashier4/15/11 3:36 AM
The first gig I did with Tommy was around '78. We were both skinny and had long hair (that's right Jim). It was a big band on the south side, I think we were doing Prince Shell's music. I kept listening to his solos, marveling at his taste. Afterwards, we starting hanging at my place, just to play. He was there the day I got my first POS upright bass, and we shared many memorable moments afterwards. What a dear, sweet, cat. Your playing and your smile are already missed.
PS: I hope most of you have heard his "Musician's Lord's Prayer"
Katherine4/15/11 5:11 AM
I am the lead vocal stylist for the 'Repeat Offenders'... We had the honor of Tom blessing us with his talents,skills, spirit, & music. This 'cat' has it all!! I found myself always saying out loud that white man sure can blow...He sure did make me look 'good! He brought tears of joy & happiness to my eyes & soul. It was a honor to have him gig with us. May 7th he was to gig with us @ the Rhythm Room.... I cant wait for him to sit-in with us @ our up coming gig :)
Love Always-KT
Devon Leal Bridgewater4/15/11 4:32 PM
I met Tom in 1972 at the Mesa Community College Summer Jazz Camp. I was getting ready to enter high school and listened mostly to big band recordings from the '30s and '40s. Walking around the music building I heard someone practicing and couldn't believe my ears! As it turned out, Tommy was shedding the Miles Davis solo on "Seven Steps to Heaven," He noticed me staring and listening, and introduced himself. He had been in my father's History and Government classes at North High and we hit it off right away. Quickly, Tommy added a whole bunch of cats to my listening list. He always knocked me out with his "complete approach" to the horn.

That meeting started a fast friendship that meant so much to me as a trumpet player, union brother and musician. The many stories we can all share in this forum that James has kindly provided; but right now, I'm thinking about Tommy's sound. Thankfully, he recorded some gems and we can revisit his wit and charm. I miss him too.
Joey Sellers4/15/11 5:25 PM
I am in disbelief that Tommy is no longer with us. I was first introduced to Tom when he guest soloed with the Tempe High Jazz Band at Bob Washut's invitation. I idolized his playing and his down-to-earth manner when speaking to us students. As time progressed, Tom would play in an 11-piece band I ran, and he was always helpful with suggestions and very supportive of us youngsters. He always had that mischievous twinkle in his eye that belied a truly big heart.My condolences to his family.
Al Beasley4/16/11 12:03 AM
Tommy was a great trumpet player and a great friend. We recorded together 10 years ago, and his solos are the best parts of the record. We will all miss him.
Nan van der Steur4/16/11 12:40 AM
I met Tommy in the late 80s when he and my husband (Mike Shellans) were playing in The Greater Urge band. They had a gig at a jazz club on 16th Street and Mike introduced us after the gig. Tommy had already packed up his horn and was standing next to Mike, who was sitting down and packing up his trombone. As Mike told me how long they’d known each other, Tommy put his arm around Mike’s shoulder, and gently kissed the top of his head.

It was such a sweet, genuine and endearing gesture that I’ll never forget it.
warren jones4/16/11 9:05 AM
a beautiful man and musician he was
always a funny story or joke
a perfect line of notes
a mouthpiece or not
all over town
Mike Shellans4/17/11 3:20 AM
Tommy Miles...
- could be the quietest yet funniest guy in the room.
- once owned the biggest Cadillac I've ever seen!
- had no enemies that I ever heard from, only friends.
- could improvise with snake-like fluidity.
- knew every great Mexican restaurant within blocks of any gig.
- was personally and musically encouraging on and off the stand.
- was unique and special and will leave a hole in all of our hearts.
Gabriel's heavenly horn section just gained another great player.
Therese Kerbey (Montgomery)4/19/11 8:08 PM
Tommy was one of the first musicians my ex-husband and I met when we moved to Phoenix fourteen years ago. We looked forward to every opportunity we had to play with him and felt completely honored to be invited to his home each Christmas, and at other times, to just chill and listen to music. And I mean listen . . . no talking, just listening and sipping something nice. The cat's ears were huge. He didn't miss a thing. Hilariously funny, he was also always lavish with praise and enthusiasm for Jon's tenor playing, for my appreciation of single-malt scotch, and for his beautiful bride. Phoenix just won't be the same without Tommy and we will miss him much.
Bill McGeough4/22/11 12:53 AM
To the {King of cool} Cath things just wont be the same without Tommy.
Jeff and Na Jeffries4/23/11 5:14 PM
We met Tom when he was at Mesa CC and became great friends. One of my fondest memories (Jeff's) occured when I was in a hospital in San Francisco. I received a phone call from Tom on the East coast with the Dorsey band. Unfortunately we never met Tom's family, but our thoughts and love go out to them.
Steve Marsh4/24/11 2:16 AM
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Tom Miles. Tommy was a masterful and multi-skilled trumpet player. He was fully capable of playing the lead chair, jazz trumpet, or any other chair in a trumpet section. Tom was a veteran of many road tours, and he was a real professional. And Tommy was one of the nicest guys you could meet. He was always encouraging to the young cats who were trying to learn how to play.

I hadn’t seen Tom much since I moved to L.A. in '88, but I clearly remember playing gigs with him in the mid to late 80’s. Tom was a valuable asset on any gig. I liked his improvised solos a lot. After the gig, Tom was always a great guy to hang with. He possessed a great sense of humor, and could make everyone feel relaxed in his presence. As Mike Shellans mentioned, Tom did know where ALL the great Mexican restaurants were in town.

Most recently I saw Tom at a reunion of MCC students one year ago. And Tommy played with us in 2003 on a big band concert in honor of Grant Wolf. It was great to see Tommy on those occasions, and to spend some time with him then.

Age 59 is too young for such a gem of a person to leave us. It’s a big loss for the musical community.

Check out Tom's solo in "On A Misty Night" on the "Playground" CD, put out by Fred Forney and the MCC music faculty. That solo nicely shows what Tom could create in a jazz context.
Bob Washut4/24/11 11:50 AM
Tom Miles was sui generis. A beautiful soul that emerged with his every note. My fondest memory of Tom was when we were both in the trumpet section of the ASU Jazz Band. The band was playing a high school assembly (in Gilbert, I believe). Tommy, Eddie Gaona, Dave Axton, Chuck Nagle and me. Right before the downbeat, Tommy let one rip. It was silent AND deadly. The whole section immediately bailed, jumping off the riser in a panic. Tommy stood there by himself, with that inimitable sheepish grin. I'll never forget that look on his face. It was a look that conveyed great satisfaction from a job well done. Tommy, you will be missed.
Chuck Nagel4/24/11 1:33 PM
I remember Tom as a very smooth mannered guy. His musicianship is what I had tried to measure up to. I always enjoyed his humor and as Bob Washut had mentioned above - I now do remember that incident. He seemed to have a way with the ladies with that beautiful smile,the remarkable good looks and the long hair.
Travel well into that next journey,Tom.
Craig Render4/24/11 10:10 PM
Oh man ... what a terrific loss of a terrific cat ...
I remember the following like it was yesterday: I was 16 years old (I think ... early '72 or maybe '73) and playing in Grant's Monday Night Band in the band room at MCC (before he got us the Varsity Inn gig). I had no business being there (but that's another story). Tom played a ridiculously good solo. I tried to quit that night!

I really don't think Tom was aware of how good a player he was... he seemed completely without ego. And funny? Oh man ... there's got to be a million anecdotes. I'll leave those to others right now.

That big warm tone of his was exactly like his personality: Big and warm ... and generous ... Tom was SUCH a generous cat.

As much as anybody I've ever known, Tom led a truly worthwhile life.
John Roeland4/25/11 1:44 PM
I was shocked to learn of Tom’s passing. I’m a drummer and I worked with Tom for seven years with the Ice Capades. We probable did 1,700 performances together. Tom was a couple years older than me and he became my “road dad”, keeping me out of trouble and preventing me from embarrassing myself many times. For a couple of years Tom was the assistant conductor with the show. He would conduct the matinees, leading the band with his left hand holding his horn in his right ala Merle Evans. We shared a chuckle about his comments in his interview with Jim where he says about conducting the ice show: “The main part there was having total, constant eye-contact with the drummer—he was my right-hand man. He wouldn't let anything too bad happen.” Note the “too bad” part. All the local guys in each town we played loved working and hanging with Tom. I’ll always remember Tom’s musicianship and his tasty playing. He loved telling or hearing a good joke and he was my friend for over 32 years. He loved his Kathy, whom my thoughts and prayers are with.

John Roeland, Local 4, Cleveland, OH
Dennis Sexton4/29/11 10:45 AM
Tommy was one kindest humans to ever walk the earth, may he R.I.P.
Anjii5/3/11 11:08 AM
That's the best answer of all time! JMHO
Bill White5/5/11 2:59 PM
It's great to see all the comments from other musicians; most whom I know and others that I haven't yet met. I first met Tom when we played together in the Young Sounds Big Band directed by Walter Barr. Tom, even then, was friendly and easy-going. He never realized what a gigantic talent he was! If he did, you would never hear it from him. Through the years, we would meet on different gigs and I always heard reports of Tom playing in the Ice Capades and other shows. Tom was always an absolute gentleman and a friend to all. You will be sorely missed, my friend. My condolences to his wife, Cathy, and the rest of his family.
Patricia Myers5/5/11 10:52 PM
Always a gentleman, and a gentle man, with a great sense of humor. His performances were solid and intriguing. When I phoned the Union for info, he always helped. He leaves a huge void in the Phnx music community.
Ruth Vichules5/11/11 4:12 PM
I have a few improvised solos memorized. They are his.
cathie miles5/13/11 10:59 AM
Thank you everyone for your kind and thoughtful comments. I know Tom would get a kick out of this. We will all miss his "sweet lips".
Frank Smith5/15/11 11:39 PM
Tom and I go way back. . . over 35 years. I think Tom was playing with the Danceros when I first met him. Then we played together on the Charles Lewis band years later.

I can't say that we hung out together as much as some of the other guys but Tom would come over to my little pad in Tempe when I was really into making gourmet coffee. We would share some java and talk music. He would embarrass me with praise. He used to call me one of his "heroes." It wasn't warranted, but it just goes to show you how supportive, humble and sweet the man was. He was always quick to compliment another musician and was always self-effacing when it came to his own talent.

We got a chance many years later (this would have been around 2008) to play together for a year. I had a trio at Sassi an upscale Italian restaurant in North Scottsdale. It was piano, bass and trumpet. Tom was brilliant every night. But here's something that might surprise you. The first night on the gig Tom was visibly nervous. He later told me he almost couldn't play because he was shaking so bad. Well, I was really surprised at this. I just tried to make light of the situation but it took Tom a good set to settle into the gig. I think this is just another example of Tom really underestimating his talents and abilities. He just never knew how good he really was! I know I told him many times what a monster I thought he was and I suspect most of you reading this did the same thing. Tom just never believed it.

The one thing I remember the most about Tom is how grateful he was for that Sassi gig. He told me that this was the best gig he ever had! (We got to play Jazz!) To me that has bitter sweet connotations. First, I am also grateful that he was on the gig and that it meant so much to him. But the other side of it is . . . with his talent and ability, he should have had gigs like this his entire career.

You will be sorely missed my friend! Love and prayers to Cathie and Tom's extended family . . .
Kurt Finchum5/19/11 7:02 PM
My second big band gig in town, in the fall of '92. Grant Wolf hired some of us from MCC to fill out the section of the Dorsey Brothers band in Tucson, with Tommy on lead. Grant and Tommy got in one car, with the rest of us in the other. Grant said, "Follow me!" and took off down I-10 at 80 mph. It was all my car could do to keep up.

Grant pulled off the road at a little bar just off the freeway north of Tucson. Red Rock, I think? Velvet Elvis on the wall. Tommy and Grant had a refreshing beverage while I just stood there, nervous about the gig. Tommy might have had more than one! Then we got back on the road. At the gig, I didn't see Tommy until right before downbeat. As far as I could tell, he didn't warm up at all, but he nailed the lead book. There was a written long and elaborate trumpet solo during Stardust, and Tommy played it like he'd been playing it his whole life. I asked him about it later, and he said "Never saw it before in my life."

One more funny thing: Grant had told us the crowd would be the 'Miss Teen Tucson' pageant, but it turned out to be the 'Ms Senior Tucson' pageant! RIP, Tommy.

Jim Henry6/8/11 2:40 AM
I waited quite a while to post something about what it meant to me to have been fortunate to call a man as kind and gentle and loving as Tom Miles my friend.
I first met Tommy back in the 70's during my tenure in the Phoenix Musicians Union's "Young Sounds" program. At the time I was hell bent on lead playing and while I had listened a lot to the jazz chair players I had yet to forage far into the world of improvisation.Barry Black brought Tom in to work with us one day and in the course of a couple of hours Tom changed my whole concept of what a Jazz trumpet player was in the most down to earth non-judgemental way I could ever imagine.
I will always be indebted to Tommy for turning me on to the joy of improvisation.
I will tell one Tommy story before I end what has already become way to long of a post:

Tommy and I were playing on a really bad society big band gig.I was trading off with him on the lead and second part.When it came time for the ubiquitous bad arrangement of "In the Mood" Tom was playing the second part where the famous written out solo lives to torture all trumpet players and I was playing lead. Well, Tom played the solo beautifully (big surprise) and I really thought nothing more of it until we got to the shout chorus and looked over to see the Tommy had literally set his chart on fire! All the while I'm trying to play the shout chorus with a straight face. *LOL* Guess Tommy had finally had enough of that tune. I will never forget that.
I will also never forget the kindness, respect and love that Tommy always treated me and, for that matter, everyone else I ever saw him come in contact with.
Thank You Tommy for making my life better simply by being a part of it.
I Love you like a brother and I will never forget you man.
Greg Smith7/4/11 12:53 AM
I learned today (July 3, 2011) Tommy Miles passed. What a truly sad day. I am bewildered by the size of the hole learning this has left in my heart. Last time I saw him was by chance, in March I think. He was on his way to a rehearsal. We talked for a while..., and suddenly he grabbed me and gave me a giant bear hug. Little did I know...