As quiet and unassuming as Hank Jones’ music tends to be, matching him with brother Elvin doesn’t interrupt his thoughtful manner. This session, recorded in May of 2002, is only the fourth time the two brothers from Detroit have recorded together, the last being Upon Reflection–The Music of Thad Jones,
a tribute to their departed sibling for Emarcy (1994).
Pianist Hank Jones is the eldest of the Jones boys at 85 years. He helped usher in the bebop revolution, recording with Charlie Parker before settling in with Ella Fitzgerald. His brother Elvin, the extrovert of the family, stood in the middle of all the jazz controversy as drummer for John Coltrane’s most infamous bands of the 1960s. His muscular and aggressive rhythms continue today in his Jazz Machine bands. Bassist Richard Davis’s resume includes sessions with Eric Dolphy, Andrew Hill, Sarah Vaughn, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, and David Murray. He is at home both in jazz and a classical setting.
Things remain under Hank’s control throughout. The opener, “Autumn Leaves,” is taken at a jaunty bebop pace with Elvin flexing a brief solo while his band mates sit and probably shake their heads and smile. Yes, that’s Elvin’s large block engine vroom-vrooming in the May parade. The tension makes for great theater.
But then Hank Jones’ Great Jazz Trios all have thrilling drummers from the first, Tony Williams to Roy Haynes and Billy Hart. His choice of bassists has included Ron Carter, Buster Williams, and George Mraz. Richard Davis is definitely coming from the Ron Carter genus. His bass solo opener on “Bye Bye Blackbird” plays upon a two-finger expression of melody and reserve. Likewise his bowing on “Yesterdays” is divine. With Hank as a partner, Davis is assured of plenty of space to be heard.
The band sticks to classic tunes, perhaps a meeting ground for the participants. Their take on Thelonious Monk’s “Rhythm-A-Ning” is quite brief with Hank stating the theme, improvising a bit as does Davis, before Elvin muscles into the mix. Where Hank has the lightest of touches, Elvin works from more heavy raw materials.
This disc has the best of both worlds with Hank highlighted throughout. His unpretentious take on “Summertime” focuses on gracious notes and paced thought. Elvin complies with simple brushwork, while Davis bends note after note behind the masterful Hank Jones.