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The seemingly inexhaustible Muse catalog, now in the possession of 32 Jazz, has yielded yet two more noteworthy albums, compiled as Sam Jones: Something In Common. The first one, Something In Common from a 1977 studio date, is by far the more interesting one, as it reunites Jones with his long-time friends Cedar Walton and Billy Higgins. In addition Slide Hampton, Blue Mitchell and a young Bob Berg join in, elevating each other’s compositions through effective arrangements and penetrating solos.
Jones’ only original tune from that 1978 album, “Seven Minds,” opens the CD with one of his ominous solos, backed by Higgins’ cymbaled shimmering and Walton’s upper-register ornamentation, before Jones leads into an enthralling, charging modal romp that challenges all of the players. Cedar Walton’s “Bolivia” features Jones’ most famous bass lines when he was a member of Walton’s Eastern Rebellion. Walton’s “Something In Common,” rooted with Jones’ walking approach, reveals Walton’s understated taste, not only in composition, but also in arranging, which continues to this day. Slide Hampton’s contribution, “Every Man Is A King,” generously allows for Jones once again to lead off a tune with a dramatic and unhurried bass solo before the group comes in for a call-and-response theme. Blue Mitchell’s tribute to Horace Silver, “Blue Silver,” is surprising as it reveals after six tracks that, in spite of the theoretical basis for the tune, the voicing of the arrangements remains the same. Plus, each tune allows for individual expansion of the theme as the musicians, obviously enjoying the session, stretch out for spirited improvisation.
The last three tracks come from Waltons’ 1976 album, Firm Roots, and as would be expected, they stress the talents of Walton in a live trio format more than they do Jones’ strength on bass. Jones’ blues, “One For Amos” does lead off with Jones stating the theme as he’s backed by Walton’s minimalist chords and Louis Hayes’ brushing. Eventually, it becomes clear that “One For Amos” is an opportunity for Walton to trade 12-bar choruses with Hayes. Sam Jones: Something In Common concludes with Walton on a Fender Rhodes to ad lib comfortably through Stevie Wonder’s “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life,” Jones and Hayes enlivening the track with respectful but energetic accompaniment.
The more challenging performances on Sam Jones: Something In Common reside in the front two-thirds of the CD. The forceful restraint of the sextet on those six tracks, with its close voicing, anticipation of the beat and memorable solos, makes the album one worth reinvestigating.
Track Listing: Seven Minds; Bolivia; Something In Common; Every Man Is A King, For All We Know, Blue Silver, Shoulders, One For Amos, You Are The Sunshine Of My Life
Personnel: Sam Jones, bass; Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Bob Berg, saxophone; Slide Hampton, trombone; Cedar Walton, keyboard; Billy Higgins, Louis Hayes, drums