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Sean Jones: Live From Jazz at the Bistro

Geannine Reid By

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Trumpeter Sean Jones received his master's degree at Rutgers University, and then quickly began his rise into the upper echelon of the jazz world. Serving for six years as the first-chair trumpeter for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, he toured Europe with Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller and, with Wayne Shorter, in a Miles Davis project; he is also now in his fifth year as a member of the SFJAZZ Collective. Heavily involved in education, Jones has taught at Duquesne University, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and is now chair of the brass department at Berklee College of Music.

Jones brings a dynamic and playful sound to his eighth Mack Avenue Records release, Live from Jazz at the Bistro. The live session was a good choice, capturing the band's poise, fire, and energy. Recorded at St. Louis' Jazz at the Bistro club, the seven-song album, produced by Al Pryor, features Jones with two versions of his band—quartet and quintet—as they "hover on the bandstand between sobriety and intoxication," as the trumpeter says.

Jones' longstanding quartet, comprised of pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Obed Calvaire, has been together for eleven years, which is rare in jazz these days. The result is a supremely conversational style that is second nature. The exception, on this date, is drummer Mark Whitfield Jr., substituting on four tunes due to Calvaire's scheduling conflict. On those four quintet tracks, Jones showcases another old friend and collaborator, alto and soprano saxophonist Brian Hogans.

Opening with Jones' burning "Art's Variable" the tune gives a nod to Art Blakey in form and melodic flow, as the group certainly starts on a good foot. Jones' sound is round and warm, with a playful approach in his conversations with the rhythm section. Evans pushes the beat during his solo, building the energy and truly reminds the listener that this is a live date, with energy abounding.

"Lost, Then Found" possesses a lyrical melody emphasized by Jones and Hogans, playing unison trumpet and soprano saxophone lines. Luques combines swings with the Latin elements that are such a natural part of his playing. The humorous backstory of this Jones composition is that he was walking around his house humming a bass line that developed into a melody, but, right before he started writing the tune out, he sifted through his stash of compositions and found the piece he had written six years before but forgotten about.

"Prof" is boisterous up-tempo selection that features both Hogans and Jones, along with Calvaire's blistering drums. Jones wrote the composition as a tribute to one of his college teachers, the late William Fielder, whose nickname was "Prof." "Prof would mess with us," says Jones. "He'd keep telling us, you're not hip enough, your lives are boring. So, this is my response: another blues with 15 bars and a wacky melody with fourths. He loved fourths." Jones' solo is full of joy and rhythmic diversity, matched by Calvaire as the two converse over rhythmic possibilities.

Live from Jazz at the Bistro is a moving, spirited, honest and raw outing from a band that has its own vocabulary and unique interplay. The playing is first-rate throughout and the album will not disappoint. Jones is on a path of inspiration and appears on a lot of projects lately. I must say his playing is in top form; it is a treat to hear him.

Track Listing: Art's Variable; Lost, Then Found; Piscean Dichotomy; Doc's Holiday; The Ungentrifed Blues; Prof; BJ's Tune.

Personnel: Orrin Evans: piano; Luques Curtis: bass; Obed Calvaire: drums; Mark Whitfield Jr.: drums; Brian Hogans: alto and soprano saxophones.

Title: Live From Jazz at the Bistro | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records

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