In Praise of the Mainstream...
The Great Jazz Trio is comprised of three veterans: Hank Jones (85 years young), Elvin Jones (77), and Richard Davis (74). If these guys are not the elder statesmen of jazz, I will eat my hat. Hank Jones, elder to Thad Jones, who in turn was elder to Elvin Jones, was on hand at the birth of bebop. Elvin’s incendiary playing propelled John Coltrane to spiritual heights the saxophonist would otherwise probably never have ascended. Richard Davis was on hand for the best recordings of Eric Dolphy and Andrew Hill. The three come together to reincarnate the Hank Jones Great Jazz Trio of 2002.
It is an interesting contrast to listen to two forward-thinking stalwarts (in Elvin Jones and Richard Davis) alongside the grand old man of understatement, Hank Jones. But it is the elder Jones that is firmly in control for this recording date, and his songbook is very much in evidence. Common to all of Hank Jones Great Jazz Trios has been premier drummers, including Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, Billy Hart, and now, brother Elvin. The drummer plays a very big part on "Autumn Leaves," throwing off explosive eights effortlessly like Lord Byron threw of stanzas of great poetry. Davis solos arco and pizzicato throughout the recording, but most notably on "Yesterdays" and "Bye Bye Blackbird."
Autumn Leaves is an urbane collection of standards performed in a mostly understated manner, with the exception of assertive percussion flashes from the drum chair. As this is a Hank Jones recording, the musicianship is superb: it separates the merely good from the absolutely sublime. Listeners could not possibly hope for a better trio recording.
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