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Hank Jones and the Great Jazz Trio

Joel Roberts By

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Hank Jones
For My Father
Justin Time
2005

Hank Jones, who celebrates his 87th birthday this month, is in the midst of one of the most productive periods of his long, distinguished career. Following last year's critically acclaimed outing with the Great Jazz Trio (his final session with his brother, the great drummer Elvin) and two collaborations with saxophone colossus Joe Lovano, Jones is back with For My Father, his debut for Canada's Justin Time label.

One doesn't turn to Hank Jones for innovation or surprise but rather for highly polished, state-of-the-art mainstream jazz piano. And that's just what he delivers on this supremely satisfying trio effort with longtime sidemen George Mraz on bass and Dennis Mackrel on drums. Refinement, elegance and sophistication are perhaps overused descriptions for Jones' piano style, but they fit his approach here, whether on Ellington classics like "Prelude to a Kiss and "Sophisticated Lady, Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom and "Blood Count, Monk's "Bemsha Swing or less familiar gems by Al Foster, Harold Mabern and Tom Harrell. Well into his ninth decade, Jones shows no sign of slowing down and his playing, which has always emphasized taste and touch over shock and awe, remains at a world-class level.

The Great Jazz Trio
At the Village Vanguard
Test of Time
2005

With Jones' profile higher than ever, Test of Time Records is reissuing the first three albums he made in the late '70s with the Great Jazz Trio, a revolving all-star group that at that time included heavy hitters Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums. The first two albums, recorded over two nights at the Village Vanguard (and for some reason featuring baseball-themed jacket covers), capture the normally reserved Jones pushed to some of his most aggressive playing by the former Miles Davis sidemen, both considerably younger and of a more modernist bent than the then-58-year-old Jones. The trio more than lives up to its moniker on these high-energy sets of Bird, Coltrane and Davis standards, plus originals by Carter and Williams.




For My Father
Tracks: Pauletta, Bemsha Swing, Queen of Hearts, Sophisticated Lady, Johnny Come Lately, Prelude to a Kiss, Lotus Blossom. SKJ, Easy to Love, Because I Love You, Grace of God, Softly as in a Morning Sunrise.
Personnel: Hank Jones: piano; George Mraz: bass; Dennis Mackrel: drums.

At the Village Vanguard
Tracks: Moose the Mooche, Naima, Favors, 12+12.
Personnel: Hank Jones: piano; Ron Carter: bass; Tony Williams: drums.

At the Village Vanguard, Vol. 2
Tracks: Confirmation, Wind Flower, Nardis, Lawra.
Personnel: Hank Jones: piano; Ron Carter: bass; Tony Williams: drums.

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