You'd think that a pianist who's solidly served as sideman for such pillars of the jazz community as Charles Mingus
, Betty Carter
, Kenny Dorham
, Grant Green
and others (including Afro-Cuban firebrands Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers
), would be at least somewhat famous. But since his first performances in the mid-1970s, pianist Danny Mixon has maintained such a low profile that he's still relatively unknown.
Mixon's first release since his self-produced Peace & Music
(2008), Pass It On
brings Mixon more into the public spotlight. Solidly footed in the jazz tradition, it explores famous and not-so-famous compositions by Thelonious Monk
, Duke Ellington
, Wayne Shorter
, and Freddie Hubbard
, plus two Mixon originals with deep roots in the blues, played with a rotating gallery of six rhythm mates (three different drummers and bassists) plus saxophonist Fred Staton
, blues-jazz vocalist Dakota Staton
It's pretty ballsy for one pianist to open his first recording in nearly a decade with a tune not just closely associated with but flat-out named for another pianist. But that's precisely what Mixon does with "Blue Monk," tap-dancing on its melody, rocking its chords, and soulfully rolling through elegant yet blues-based runs. His solo piano rendition of "Single Petal of a Rose," simple and unadorned, allows all the beauty of Duke Ellington's original melody to fully bloom.
Mixon so adeptly explores two Wayne Shorter tunes that you'd think they were composed for piano, seamlessly swapping improvisations in and out of the verses of "Yes or No" and blending jazz, blues and classical styles into "Infant Eyes," played as soft and gentle as baby's breath. Pass It On
programs Mixon's two originals back to back: As basic as its title, "My Blues" rolls as steadily and powerfully as the Mississippi River through its delta homelandjust a great old school piano blues played by a pianist who truly "tickles the ivories" in his swirling mid-song improvisation, and who's lived long enough to have genuinely experienced the blues. A tribute more in feeling and tone than style, "The Sample Way" honors The Crusaders
' keyboardist Joe Sample with a truly sing-able melody that organically rises from solid yet shifting rhythmic footing.
In the center of Pass It On
, "Memories of You," Hubbard's tune "Up Jumped Spring," and "The Very Thought of You," combine to survey jazz piano from Art Tatum
to Thelonious Monk (especially Mixon's strongly rhythmic left hand) to Red Garland
to McCoy Tyner
all in the space of about twelve minutes.
Blue Monk; Infant Eyes; On a Clear Day; Memories of You; Up Jumped Spring; The Very Thought of You; Yes or No; My Blues; The Sample Way; Single Petal of a Rose; That's All; Minton's.
Danny Mixon: piano; Marcus McLaurine: bass; Rudy Lawless: drums; Damon
Duewhite: drums; Ghanniyya Green: vocalist; Bryce Sebastien: bass; Paul Ramsey: bass: McClenty Hunter: drums; Fred Staton: sax.