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Sean Jones: Im•pro•vise-Never Before Seen

Dan Bilawsky By

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Sean Jones, the former lead trumpeter of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, never hides behind anything or anyone when he plays. That being said, it's still worth noting that he's pulled back the curtain on this one, revealing more of himself than in the past. This album—his seventh album in ten years on the Mack Avenue imprint—has no overdubs, no percussive window dressing, no other horns sharing space in the front line, and no guests. It's Jones at his most pure and powerful, delivering, as he himself says, "A reintroduction of who I am."

Jones' range on the trumpet—literally, stylistically, and expressively speaking—is on full display here. His sound can be bright, buttery or bold at different times, or even all at once, and his gaze can move from steely to sweet in a heartbeat. He can marry pure beauty and power like few others ("The Morning After"), and he makes it clear that a post-modern focus and a fondness for the traditions of this music aren't mutually exclusive.

Jones is in strong form right out of the gate, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee over Obed Calvaire's excitable drums on "60th & Broadway." The follow-up track—"Dark Times"—has Jones operating in what could best be described as a Terence Blanchard-meets-Ambrose Akinmusire zone. Pianist Orrin Evans' solo is the high point on "Interior Motive," drawing focus by giving it, and the relationship between Evans and Jones is highlighted as "The Morning After" begins. Evans' piano glistens like the rays of the dawning sun, and Jones' wide-eyed horn work further brightens the picture as the latter tune evolves.

Those first four pieces are all about Jones' vision and voice, but the three tunes that follow allow him to clearly tie his horn into the history of the music. "I Don't Give A Damn Blues," an on-the-bandstand creation that stayed around, finds Jones and company working confidently with the language referenced in the title. "Dr. Jekyll," built atop Luques Curtis' driving bass, finds Evans floating around the time during his solo. Jones goes in the opposite direction when he takes control, charging ahead, going for broke, and putting it all on the line. "How High The Moon," the last number in that tradition-connected trilogy of songs, finds the trumpeter taking liberties with the rhythmic cadences of that classic while remaining true and faithful to the melody itself.

The last stretch of the album features calm-yet-vivid balladry ("We'll Meet Under The Stars"); an ebullient, Calvaire-driven winner ("New Journey"); an Evans original that's relatively straight-ahead in its outlook ("Don't Fall Off The L.E.J."); and a touching trumpet-with-piano take on a Stephen Sondheim number that Jones dedicates to his mother ("Not While I'm Around"). Each one shows off a different side of Jones' artistry.

While Jones has touched on some of the moods and musical ideals presented here in the past, he always did so in a more dressed-up fashion. Here, he strips it all away, presenting himself as he truly is. This is the clearest, most direct portrait of Sean Jones, giving a three-hundred-and-sixty degree view of one of the most accomplished trumpeters operating today.

Track Listing: 60th & Broadway; Dark Times; Interior Motive; The Morning After; I Don't Give A Damn Blues; Dr. Jekyll; How High The Moon; We'll Meet Under The Stars; New Journey; Don't Fall Off The L.E.J.; Not While I'm Around.

Personnel: Sean Jones: trumpet; Orrin Evans: piano; Luques Curtis: bass; Obed Calvaire: drums.

Title: Im•pro•vise-Never Before Seen | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records

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