Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Mimi Jones: Feet in the Mud

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Bassist-vocalist Mimi Jones is joined here by soprano saxophonist Samir Zarif, pianist Jon Cowherd and drummer Jonathan Barber, settling into a comfortable groove pitched midway between ’70s-styled urban funk-jazz and straight-ahead swing.

The opener, “Mr. Poo Poo,” sets the tone, with Jones’ alternating rhythmic conceits prodding Cowherd’s uptown-lounge Rhodes spicings. Jones’ solo summons a Blanton-like melodic and tonal richness peppered with Pettiford-ian skitters and an ability to evoke, rather than state outright, the rhythmic theme (a knack she tosses back and forth with Barber during their exchanges). The melody line of “The-Min-or Way” (that’s THElonious, MINgus and ORnette) reflects Monk’s influence, as do the rhythmic and melodic contours of Cowherd’s piano solo, but Zarif sounds more like Coltrane at his most ebullient (think “The Inch Worm” or “Your Lady”) than the untamable Ornette, and Jones’ bass work, propulsive and dexterous as it is, does not aspire to Mingus’ tumultuous virtuosity.

Jones’ lyrics may be an acquired taste. “American” hauntingly invokes a mythic river deity and the ancestral spirits that continue to nurture and bless the land; “Happy,” though, is an anachronistic-sounding ode to infatuation (“I can’t live without you/I can’t breathe without you”), and Jones’ new-agey conceits and breathy, awestruck delivery on “Elevate” distract from the musical virtuosity on display. More effective is “Applause,” an elegy for saxophonist Rebecca Buxton, who committed suicide in 2015; it’s meditative, even serene, despite its tragic backstory.

In general, though, it’s the straightforward instrumental outings, accessible yet artfully realized, that exemplify this disc’s strongest suit: unforced dexterity and rhythmic sureness, with Jones alternately striding, popping and shimmying with deep-pocketed ease as her bandmates dance and glide with her-a collegial, spirit-infused celebration of music and life.

Purchase this issue from Barnes & Noble or Apple Newsstand. Print and digital subscriptions are also available.

Originally Published