Balance is one of three new titles released in February 2014 by Hot Tone Music, the label founded by bassist/vocalist Mimi Jones. "Hot Tone Music was created to give chances to those who may have been overlooked and denied the necessary support and knowledge to develop," Jones explains. "Women are a big part of that group, and so I always look out for them. Women have come a long way but are still a minority in jazz, so we've formed a network of sorts where we can call on each other for support and recommendations." (Along with Jones' Balance, saxophonist Camille Thurman debuts with Origins and drummer Shirazette Tinnin with Humility: Purity of My Soul. Jones, Thurman and Tinnin all perform on each others' releases, too.)
"As it is a great desire of mine to free myself of remembering that we are 'women in jazz' instead of musicians, we are still in times where it remains seen as 'special' for women to be really doing itand doing it well."
The ambitious and far-ranging Balance leaves little doubt that Jones is "really doing itand doing it well." Electric guitar and piano patrol the borders of "Patriot""a dedication to all the soldiers that put themselves on the frontline and what they must endure," she explainswhile bass and drums detonate explosive rhythm changes. "The Edge of a Circle" features beautifully blue trumpet by Ingrid Jensen, and the rhythmic interplay between Jones' bass and percussionists Tinnin and Justin Faulkner, behind Miki Hayama's piano, intuitively flows in the same way that Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian painted shades of rhythm behind Bill Evans. Rolling along Jones' bass and Faulkner's drums, and riding Luis Perdomo's sparkling but soft keyboard solo, "Junk Funk" sounds like anything but junk.
Thurman's flute and vocal float through Jones' warm and colorful arrangement of Roy Ayers's hit single "Everybody Loves the Sunshine." Her rearrangement of "Someone Like You" (Adele) moves from brooding to bold, like Jill Scott or Alicia Keys pulling apart and then putting back together its tune.
Jones began to add singing to her bass playing several years ago: "I was hearing melodies and it hit me: I could sing the melody and play the bass part at the same time," she recalls. Her voice serve as spirit guide for her originals "Traveler" and "To Be," which her bass line swings from a simple rhythm to the edge of funky.
The closing "Dream" features Mala Waldron, herself a bandleader (and daughter of famous jazz pianist and composer Mal Waldron), who intertwines her vocal with Jones' to sing, "It's a long road without a guarantee, but keep reaching for your dream." After listening Balance, you suspect that Jones knows about long roads, and about dreams.
Nothing Like You; Traveler; Speedbump; The Incy Wincy Spider; The Spinning Tree; Patriot; Someone Like You; To Be; The Edge of a Circle; Everybody Loves the Sunshine; Junk Funk; Dream.
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