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Plays Well With Others
Mike Jones Trio

Mike Jones has been playing the one hour opening set before the Penn & Teller magic and comedy shows in Las Vegas since 2002, the first 40 minutes with Penn Jillette himself on bass and the remaining 20 minutes unaccompanied. Those familiar with this outstanding pianist from his previous five albums or the Vegas shows, or first hearing him on this CD, may wonder why he hasn't sought better or wider exposure elsewhere, but where else can a jazz musician perform for about a thousand people five nights a week? Be that as it may, Jones two-handed style incorporates stride, boogie woogie, swing, and shades of bebop, with his notable influences being Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson (who recommended that he attend the Berklee College of Music), and Red Garland, along with at times the earthiness of Gene Harris or the elegance of George Shearing. For this session comprised of mostly standards, Jones fronts an empathetic trio with bassist Mike Gurrola and drummer Jeff Hamilton, although he also gets to strut his stuff in a solo context. As sometime semi-pro bassist Jillette observes in his affectionate liner notes: "It's a tribute to Jonesy's willpower that he plays great with me and a tribute to his raw skill and talent that with his real peers he can tear the roof off any joint he's near. Jonesy plays well with others."

The intro to "Besame Mucho" is wonderful in itself with the trio's subtle interaction, followed by Jones' ringing theme reading with the clever insertion of a rhythmic motif that persists throughout. Jones' solo features his distinctive touch, blues sensibility, forceful chords, fresh spiraling runs, and authoritative two-handed insertions. Jones percolates with a buoyant swing from the onset of "It's a Wonderful World," recalling Peterson in his agile lines, unison passages, and rhythmic momentum, but with an appealingly individualized conception. Gurrola's bass solo is insinuatingly artful, and Hamilton's nuanced trades with Jones exhibit their easeful rapport. The pianist's trickling opening to "September Song" leads to a floating mid-tempo exposition of the melody, the trio in perfect sync. Jones' commanding solo is never predictable as he surges, darts, and utilizes pronounced block chords to invigorating effect. The lesser known Harry Warren ballad "I Know Why and So Do You" is given an understated but moving interpretation, with Gurrola's complementary bass lines and Hamilton's exquisite brushwork enhancing Jones' irresistible improvisation.

Jones' own "Box Viewing Blues" is an insistent romp chock-full of hearty articulations that run the gamut from stride to block chords evoking Garland, right down to a Count Basie sign-off. The leader goes it alone on "Detour Ahead," playing the theme with a reflective depth of feeling and left-hand formations that seem inevitable and just right. His lyrical improvised section is then elevated by that same strong and controlled left hand's walking patterns. The up-tempo "Day By Day" shows that Jones' creativity and technical proficiency remain undiminished even at such a quick pace as this. Hamilton's sublime dexterity with brushes is also a highlight for the duration, including his eloquent solo stint. Gurrola splits the melody of "Corcovado" with Jones, whose zestful skittering lines, bluesy motifs and trills, and two-handed sequences combine to both amaze and delight. Fats Domino's hit tune "I'm Walkin'" receives a rollicking exploration, with a steadfast boogie woogie left hand setting the stage for Jones' jubilantly prancing variations on the theme. Needless to say, a solo performance, as the pianist provides all the rhythmic drive one might desire.

"Deed I Do" offers another prime example of this trio's togetherness, as Gurrola's bass lines and Hamilton's sharply delineated rhythms merge gracefully with Jones' winding runs, and yet more emphatic block chords. The bassist gets to tell a very lucid tale as well, and then Jones' sparkling dialogue with Hamilton makes apparent the drummer's inexhaustible imagination. Jones adroitly reworks "I'm Old Fashioned" from the very start of his intro before Gurrola and Hamilton join him for a brisk run through the actual theme. Next it's off to the races, as Jones once again blends gyrating extensions with majestic two-handed harmonies. The pianist's arpeggios during his prelude to "I Thought About You" clearly acknowledge Tatum, while his refined theme assessment comes more out of Shearing or Teddy Wilson. His solo, however, unites Tatum with Garland in a refreshingly personal manner. Jones' "Obscuro Blues" contains his nimble flourishes, hard-nosed riffs, and robust chordal developments, and Gurrola and Hamilton engage in a highly communicative series of exchanges pre-reprise.

1 Comment

  • Dec 03, 2013 at 11:40PM Mike Jones

    Thank you so much Scott! I'm so glad you enjoyed the cd!

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Scott Albin