Hank Jones Trio: !!!

In Sicily in 1991, the pianist gave a typically fluent performance on bop and swing material, accompanied by George Mraz and Kenny Washington

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Arriving in New York in 1944, Hank (elder brother of Thad and Elvin, in a very musical family) was soon in high demand, primarily for his exceptionally responsive gifts as a versatile, tasteful and supportive accompanist. He worked with most of the top names of the day from Goodman to Hawkins and Parker, including five years with Ella Fitzgerald.

An adept sight reader and strong soloist, he toured extensively with Jazz At The Phil then spent 17 years as a session musician in CBS studios, performing all kinds of music, and freelancing widely. By now he’d acquired a chameleon-like ability to adapt to widely differing jazz settings.

From the 70s he focused more on trio and solo work, with considerable bop influence absorbed into his latter-day style, and continued to record prolifically. On this CD, which captures a live concert in 1991 at a Sicilian jazz festival, his trio includes the remarkable Czech bassist George Mraz, and hard-bop revivalist drummer Kenny Washington, who’d worked with Getz and Griffin.

Mraz, settling and studying in New York in the 70s, toured and recorded with Peterson, Getz, Zoot Sims and many other prominent names. An inspired and distinctive stylist, he is much featured throughout the session, contributing both strong rhythmic support and an inventive flow of ideas in solos, and as a counterpoint in ensemble. Incisive and precise, his agile phrases frequently explore the upper regions of the bass, suggesting something of the plangent tone and style of a guitar. He’s outstanding in ’Round About Midnight and J.J. Johnson’s upbeat Interlude.

The relaxed mastery and experience of Hank Jones shows throughout, in a controlled but creatively fluent performance. Stand-out tracks include an elegant and subtle Willow Weep For Me, and fired-up versions of Interlude and Parker’s Moose The Mooche and Scrapple From The Apple, drummer Kenny Washington soloing ingeniously on the latter.

Hank died in 2010 aged 92, possibly the most recorded artist in jazz. Yet for all his success and popularity, his name has remained partially eclipsed by the top keyboard superstars of his day. This Italian CD (notes have an English translation) is a welcome reminder of his great talent and special gift for rapport.

Discography
Interface; A Child Is Born; Willow Weep For Me; Scrapple From The Apple; ’Round About Midnight; Moose The Mooche; Blue Monk; I’ll Remember April; Wind Flower; Interlude; Recorda Me (68.36)
Jones (p); George Mraz (b); Kenny Washington (d). Brassgroup Acireale Jazz Festival, Sicily, Italy, 17 July 1991.
Red Records RR 123332-2