Hank Jones: Master Class

This Jones CD contains two Muse LP’s dating from 1977 and ’78. The great pianist teams with bassist George Duvivier and drummer Ben Riley on the first and leads a quintet with brother Thad on cornet, tenor saxman Charlie Rouse, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Mickey Roker on the second. All of the tunes on them are by either Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie or Miles Davis. Hank ranks among the best bop pianists but continued to evolve in the 1950s and ’60s. I’m not sure putting him in a bop revival context brings out the best in him, although some updated arrangements certainly lend interest to the proceedings. The exquisite version of “Groovin’ High” by an unusual trio consisting of a muted Thad, Roker and Hank, who has an expanded role in the rhythm section due to the absence of a bassist, and the bi-tonal statement of “Anthropology” indicate these guys aren’t standing pat.

Hank and both bassists and drummers are known for improvising impeccably and that’s what they do on these albums. If Hank’s playing has been more daring elsewhere, it’s still lucid and lyrical. Thad performs with inspiration; it’s a shame he hasn’t received the recognition he deserves as one of the greatest and most original jazz trumpeters; so original that others couldn’t imitate him.

Rouse, too, deserves a great deal of praise. Anticipating Sonny Rollins, he had a post-bop style before there was a post bop movement. At one time his playing was too repetitive, but he stopped running his pet licks into the ground and became a very inventive improviser, as his excellent work here indicates.