The title of the Jessica Jones Quartet's latest CD, Nod, is "Don" spelled backwards, a reverse tipping of the hat to Don Cherry, the trumpeter who ran with Ornette Coleman back in the early days of free jazz, on several groundbreaking albums of the genre. But here's the rub: the set doesn't have Cherry's sound; if you're looking for parallels, Nod runs much more along the lines of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, with a loose, devil-may-care approach that draws from multiple sources to create its sound. Part of that comes from the input of Art Ensemble member Joseph Jarman's distinctive contribution to two cuts here, playing alto sax and vocalizingwith Jessica Jones' eleven year old son, Levion Jarman's "Happiness Is"; and his dueting with Mark Taylor's French horn, with his bass clarinet, on "Love and Persevere." Worth the price of admission, those two cuts by themselves.
And though they flirt seriously with the free jazz sound, with Connie Crothers bringing in her Cecil Taylor-like piano on two cuts, Jessica and company also go deep into bop, with a dark, brooding take on Jackie McLean's "Little Melonae," and a nod to saxophonist Wayne Shorter on the disc's highlight, the eleven minute plus "Waynepolis," another brooder that features a very compelling bass solo by Ken Filiano, who has graced some of the most interesting free jazz sets of the past few years, among them saxophonist Fred Hess's Extended Family (Tapestry, '02) and The Long and Short of It, (Tapestry,'03), as well as Avram Fefer's Shades of the Muse (CIMP, '03). Filiano's sound is big and fat and rubbery, ominous at times, and it seems to be the glue that holds the set together, music that spans several genres, including hip hopacoustic/organic styleand standards, on "Platform ShoesApocalypse" and "These Foolish Things," respectively.
The focus may be a bit blurredby designbut the sounds, like those of the Art Ensemble of Chicagoare full of life and vibrancy and joy, even on the darker tunes. Even more so on those, perhaps.
Track Listing: Bird's Word, Little Melonae, Happiness Is, Waynoplois, Love and Persevere, Manhattan, These Foolish Things, Platform Shoes--Apocalypse
Personnel: Jessica Jones--tenor sax and piano; Tony Jones--tenor saxophone; Derrick Phillips--drums; Joseph Jarman--bass clarinet, alto sax and vocals; Connie Crothers--piano; Mark Taylor--French horn