If you mixed Eddie Harris, Cannonball Adderley and Hank Crawford, you'd get Jesse Jones, Jr. He out-Manns Herbie Mann (on a hard, slow jam of "Comin' Home Baby") and at times even hints at Arthur Blythe ("Precious"). The alto player / flautist / vocalist makes his recording debut here at the age of 52 with a talent and groove that owes something to those better-known reed masters yet importantly maintains a swing, pulse and energy that's all his own. "Soul Serenade" sounds as if it was one of those rocking Eddie Harris records on Atlantic. But Jones swings his own party here. "Papa Stopper" and "Jesma" is what Cannonball would be doing in the 90s - with brother Melton Mustafa doing fine by Nat. But Jones rips through it with a familiar vigor that arches in directions that are his own. Jones trots out a welcome remake of the great King Curtis classic, "Soul Serenade," with an unmistakable, impassioned wail. Here, it is evident that Jones, like King Curtis and Paul Desmond (a favorite of Jones'), knows how to structure a solo: like a good story - a soul story, and so what if it's been told before.
Jones has a top-rate quartet backing him, including fellow Fort Lauderdale resident Lonnie Smith on piano and organ. It's great to hear Smith, who's gotten more interesting on organ in the last few years, solo on piano during "Comin' Home Baby" and "Precious." Soul Serenade loses steam during Jones' infrequent scat singing bits ("The Dap Kid") and suffers unnecessary ballads like "That's The Way Love Is." One senses, though, that a sound like Jesse Jones Jr. isn't served well on record. His groove needs to be experienced in a club, where you can dig the greasy groove live and sanctify his brand of funky soul in person..