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The aptly titled Joyous Encounter reunites the best with the best. Unlike last year's I'm All For You, however, this program includes much more than just ballads. Up-tempo jaunts and leisurely strolls balance the program in much the same way that our lives turn each day. And the end result is, of course, a joyous experience for the audience.
Joe Lovano and Hank Jones caress each melody and stretch out considerably. What they do with Oliver Nelson's "Six and Four" puts a whole new slant on the equation, as the quartet gets together on this swinger and makes it their own. Lovano's tenor saxophone rips off phrases right and left with innate spontaneity. Emotion pours from every inch of his body as the piece advances through progressions that dazzle the intellect. He and Jones infuse a quality into their soloing that lets you enjoy the mesmerizing rhythms while being overcome by the lightning that's going back and forth. The quartet takes this one home for keeps.
Three pieces on the program come from the pen of Thad Jones. Brothers Thad, Hank, and Elvin have given us a lifetime of roles to follow, and all of it defines where we want to be. As the quartet interprets "Quiet Lady," bassist George Mraz steps forward with a lyrical bass solo that soothes as it describes the piece's impressions in waltz form. "Don't Ever Leave Me" sparkles with a light bossa rhythm that emphasizes drummer Paul Motian's drive. Thad Jones' classic "A Child is Born" reflects the sentiment that we all feel through his music as Hank Jones explores its tender nuances. Lovano opts for soprano saxophone on this one, giving the piece a throatier property.
John Coltrane's "Crescent" closes the session with a bang as the quartet takes this opportunity to drive forcefully with the pedal to the metal. Lovano and Jones remain loose and seem to be having fun exploring all the possibilities. Emotions run high, but the quartet remains cohesive throughout its performance. It doesn't get much better. Joyous Encounter proves to be not only highly recommended, but an essential adventure for all jazz lovers.
Track Listing: Autumn in New York; Bird's Eye View; Don't Ever Leave Me; Alone Together; Six and Four; Pannonica; Consummation; Quiet Lady; Joyous Encounter; A Child is Born; Crescent.
Personnel: Joe Lovano- tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone on "Pannonica" and "A Child is Born;" Hank Jones- piano; George Mraz- bass; Paul Motian- drums.