Who doesn’t appreciate an album with a story behind it? In this case, the story couldn’t be much more poignant: pianist Hank Jones and drummer Elvin Jones saying a musical so long to their late brother, trumpeter, composer and bandleader extraordinaire Thad by playing his work. Anyone with any familiarity with the surviving brothers’ own style and work should be imagine the level and skill, depth of feeling, and sureness of touch they bring to the occasion, but a bit of a surprise is the serenely joyous tone of the album: a warm send-off, with smiling hearts. Another delight is the performance of George Mraz, who is so inspired that at times his lines threaten to steal the show–but don’t.
It’s that the record is devoid of somber moments. In fact, maybe the most powerful is also the most inevitable: when the trio close with Thad’s most famous composition, the delicate, pensive “A Child is Born.” I love what the much-missed Penguin Jazz Guide claims about the performance–that if hearing it doesn’t at least mist the listener’s eyes, he may want to check the composition (the substance!) of his ticker. Test yourself:
Eric Revis: City of Asylum–What I feel like, at least metaphorically, so many of us are seeking. A marvelous free recording from Clean Feed, led by Revis on very exoressive bass, with Kris Davis on piano and Andrew Cyrille on drums, it seems to aurally build that kind of structure. The only cut that beats their disassembling of Monk’s “Gallop’s Gallop” is the leader’s haunting “Sot Avast.”
James P. Johnson: 1921-1928–Stride piano being effervescently born.