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June 2007

Joe Lovano & Hank Jones
Kids: Duets Live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
Blue Note Records

At this stage in his remarkable career, the lovely fall of his prime as it were, any recording featuring Hank Jones is apt to be viewed as a conversation piece, at least to some extent. The pianist is, after all, on the verge of celebrating his 89th birthday.

Kids, however, is a series of delightful conversations in itself, inspired by a collection of swing, bop and pop tunes. Those familiar with the pair’s recent Blue Note recordings—2004’s I’m All for You—Ballad Songbook and 2005’s Joyous Encounter—will recognize certain traits, not least being Jones’ attentive and unfussy accompaniments. But on this intimate date, recorded live in Manhattan, what’s particularly apparent is the ease with which Lovano and Jones exchange ideas while complementing not just each other but also the tune at hand. The duo’s performances cover a lot of ground, from vibrantly animated bop flag-wavers (“Budo” and the Lovano-penned “Charlie Chan”) to hauntingly soulful balladry (“Lazy Afternoon,” the album’s soprano-limned coda).

Yes, strictly speaking, Kids is Lovano’s latest release, and his performances are typically expressive and assured. But Jones isn’t making a cameo here. He’s an equal partner throughout, and his playing is sometimes marked by a liveliness that can be traced back to the era of two-fisted swing and stride. Each musician contributes an original piece with Jones’ “Lullaby” providing a waltzing interlude. And, once again, the duo honors the memory of Thad Jones, the pianist’s late brother, by celebrating his songbook with as much ingenuity as affection.

Originally published in June 2007
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