Dave Jones Quintet at Black Mountain Jazz

The Welsh pianist led his quintet in arrangements of compositions by the former Miles Davis saxophonist Kenny Garrett

Arranging Kenny Garrett: the Dave Jones Quintet (left to right) - Ben Waghorn, Andy Hague, Ryan Thrupp, Ashley John Long and Dave Jones. Photo by Kasia Ociepa

Repertoire jazz bands have saluted the writing of many leading figures over the years, among them Ellington, Dameron and Mingus. Alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett might not seem an obvious composer to add to the list, but trumpeter Andy Hague has been arranging Kenny Garrett’s writing and firing pianist Dave Jones’ enthusiasm for it. Jones, a Garrett admirer, describes Garrett’s tunes as “accessible with lots of jazz content”, which is more than fair comment and doesn’t understate the case.

Jones’s current quintet of himself, Hague (doubling flugelhorn), Ben Waghorn (tenor saxophone), Ashley John Long (bass) and Ryan Thrupp (drum kit) has just recorded a Garrett/Hague miscellany at Pizza Express in London and are embarked on a short tour, called A Hole In One (from the Garrett album Happy People), to promote the resultant album of the same name. Some of the Garrett material has also been performed by a Jones quartet with Thrupp, Hague the sole horn, and bass duties shared among Long, Chris Jones, and Nick Kacal. The last two have also been quintet players. Hague drums too, but not in the quintet.

Garrett is a post-bop stylist who served apprenticeship with Duke Ellington and performed with Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw and, most prominently, Miles Davis. He’s made 17 discs, one of the most popular being his eighth studio album, Songbook, which featured him in a quartet setting with Jeff “Tain” Watts (drums), Kenny Kirkland (piano) and Nat Reeves (bass). Jones is a big Kirkland fan.

Hague’s arrangements turn Garrett’s predominantly quartet formats into quintet shape, with the two horns carrying the tunes. They were smartly turned out at the Melville Centre in Abergavenny, with Hague recognising and taking account of Garrett’s percussive sax style. Thrupp, a drummer who at once latches on to a chart’s essential rhythm, gave extra bounce.

The length of solos everywhere was just right and the horn duetting crisp and inventive, sometimes in tail-end choruses dissolving into individual and tasteful free impro. There was just enough three-way trading between Thrupp and the horns, as on Now (from the album Beyond The Wall), not to make things too predictable, and Long’s finger-blurring visits to the higher registers of the bass contrasted nicely with his solid and deep-delving swing, especially when the band shifted straight into fifth gear, as on Chief Blackwater (from the album Standard Of Language).

Jones was always the steadying influence with his sophisticated but emphatic figurations across the keyboard, and it found respite in She Waits For The New Sun (from Songbook), a ballad that also featured Long’s affecting lyricism. Thrupp distilled the dance essence of Happy People (from the eponymous album) in a solo that was as quietly exploratory as it was explosive. But most of all, though not unexpected, the solo contributions of Waghorn and Hague illustrated the potential of Garrett’s melodious themes, not least in the catchy-tricky Hargrove (from Sounds From The Ancestors).

Further tour dates: 10 March, 2023 – Birmingham Jazz at 1000 Trades. 16 March, 2023 – Narberth Jazz.

The Dave Jones Quintet plays The Music of Kenny Garrett. Black Mountain Jazz at the Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 26 February 2023