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September 2005

Jo Jones
Jo Jones: The Everest Years
Empire Music Group

The Everest Years reissues two LPs by a drummer whose innovations shaped modern jazz percussion. The first, Jo Jones Trio, from 1958, has Ray Bryant on piano and his brother Tom Bryant on bass. The second, Vamp ’Til Ready, from 1960, is an in-studio jam session by an all-star sextet.
Everest was an “audiophile label” before the phrase existed, boasting “certified stereo.” But Jo Jones Trio sounds absolutely awful. Jones’ drums are so far forward in the mix—even for a drummer-led ensemble—that the sound stage is ludicrously distorted. It is not too much of a loss. The trio plays corny, obvious versions of songs like “My Blue Heaven,” with cutesy shave-and-a-haircut tag endings.

The sound of Vamp ’Til Ready is bland—which is a huge improvement. The horns are from the swing era (“Sweets” Edison, Jimmy Forrest and Bennie Green), with more modern players in the rhythm section with Jones (Tommy Flanagan and Tommy Potter). It is an amiably swinging, unremarkable program of standards (“Thou Swell,” “Liza”) and Jones originals.

Jo Jones’ deft command of the hi-hat and brushes and his crisp portrayal of time are on display here—if you can sit still for the sound of the first half of this CD.

Originally published in September 2005
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