Monday, May 23, 2011

HARD BOP COMFORT ZONE

Sean Jones’s followers pretty much know what to expect from a Sean Jones album, a straight-up swing affair mixed with some warm and fuzzy ballads. Jones has become an established force and the top jazz trumpeter of his generation. That’s huge, considering Jones’s peers are trumpeters Marcus Printup, Jeremy Pelt, Terrell Stafford, Dwight Adams, Russell Gunn and Nicholas Payton.

When Mack Avenue Records opened in 2004,  Jones was one of the company's first employees. Jones made a string of solid albums, and later on earned the coveted first chair in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. (Jones recently quit to focus on other musical interests.)

I heard Jones for the first time at the 2004 Detroit International Jazz Festival. Jones was a member of Marcus Belgrave’s Trumpet Summit. Belgrave assembled jazz trumpeters from across the country, and Jones outplayed them all.

Like his hero trumpeter Clifford Brown, Jones likes to dwell in the upper register of the horn. And Jones blows forcefully enough to topple a garbage truck. My only pet peeve with Jones is some of his albums sound the same. So far, Jones’s third album, Roots showed his complete game. Jones is an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it bandleader, so he uses the same rhythm section from some of his previous albums.

Tomorrow, Mack Avenue Records offers to the public Jones’s new album No Need for Words. Jones is faithful to his hard swinging formula with some ballads strategically placed, giving the listeners a breather from the high premium swing that is No Need for Words main thrust. The Ballads Momma, Touch and Go and Forgiveness (Release)—are Jones’s most endearing yet.

Forgiveness (Release) comes across as if Jones has finally reconciled some deep seated issues that have bothered him for sometime. When Jones hits high notes, it sounds as if he’s screaming “hallelujah.

Love’s Fury is the stand out, and is Jones’s stab at free jazz. His band goes at it like wild animals on the attack. Love Fury is the farthest Jones has moved outside his hard-bop comfort zone. Love’s Fury foreshadows a new direction Jones is test-driving.
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