This one runs by so fast: subtle grace, flawless hands, a playful wink at odd moments. That Hank Jones, and it’s also Fats Waller, two great stylists best known for other things. (Fats for his composing; for Hank, it’s his brothers!) In 1978 came a dream job: Jones joined the theatre band for the show Ain’t Misbehavin’, in effect taking the part of Waller. For Hank, who played these songs in his youth, it was a reacquaintance with an old friend, preparing him well for this album. It comes in two flavors: a langorous trio, and a peppy sextet arranged by Bill Holman. It has a rosy glow to it, as will you; "It’s supposed to be happy music ... you come away snapping your fingers." And you do.
The horns grab you on the opener; only come theme does the piano intrude. He steps easy, adding bits of the stride. Kenny Burrell’s on the side, ringing the time as Al Casey did for Fats. The bridge advances with gloom, a pressure defused by sparkling chords. Teddy Edwards jumps in his soft rasp made for moments like this. He normally plays harder, but that isn’t missed – the mood is perfect. Likewise Burrell: warmer than normal, the strings snap with metallic power – even some twang! When horns converge on the close, you know it’s a party, and Hank makes himself at home with a winning stride. Not naughty – and rather nice. "Mean to Me"isn’t by Waller, but Fits well. (Hank quoted this on "Misbehavin’".) The horns are tough – up the tempo and it could almost be hard bop. Hank pays no mind; he stays sweet, and Davis has a nice yawn behind him. Horns pop a riff, then it’s Teddy gentle as Lester – oh yeah. Bob Ojeda starts crisply, then wanders soft, painting a marvelous mood. "Rose" is the odd girl out: you think it’s a trio, and that’s how he plays it. Big expressive hands; clarinet and guitar come wiggling in – a beauty. Ojeda’s mute is charming, and Edwards’ solo comes sweet ‘n’ sassy ... just like Hank. Perfect old-time swing, and we get it today. One never knows, do one?
Nothing changes when the horns go home; the sound remains full and Hank, if anything, is warmer. "Lounging at the Waldorf" starts quoting "’S Wonderful" – which it is. The chords are large, hinting Red Garland; the solo slips by in whimsical steps. And what’s "March of the Toreadors" doing here? Richard Davis brings us back to the present – an agile tone and a rapid touch. Forget "Jumpin’"; Roy Haynes blasts the joint off with explosive tome. Then Davis does a quick march; Hank punches some chords but his men do the job here. Except for the stride at the end – now that is jumpin’. Now the joint sets to closing: chords tumble slowly, the mood being "Squeeze Me". Nice and easy – soft brushes, the occasional bass, and a soft line, accented at times by the right chord. Nothing fancy, and we don’t want to rush – just sit and let the tenderness flow. There’s lots of that here, next to the good playing and good times. Somewhere, you bet Fats Waller is smiling. When wasn’t he?
Songs:Ain’t Misbehavin’; Lounging at the Waldorf; Mean to Me; The Joint is Jumpin’; Honysuckle Rose; Just Squeeze Me.
Musicians:Hank Jones (piano); Richard Davis (bass); Roy Haynes (drums), plus:
On "Ain’t Misbehavin’", "Mean to Me", and "Honeysuckle Rose":add Bob Ojeda (trumpet); Teddy Edwards (tenor sax, clarinet); Kenny Burrell (guitar).
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