Mike Jones Trio: Are You Sure You Three Guys Know What You Are Doing?

West Coast pianist and drummer, along with a magician who taught himself bass aged 48, do a solid job on bop, blues and bossa standards

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Well, it’s a good, attention-grabbing title and the answer is that they do know what they’re doing, and they do it well. Penn Jillette is a magician and illusionist in the USA and, I’m informed, a very good one. At the age of 48 he decided he wanted to teach himself to play the double bass and he set about doing it. Jones is a highly competent pianist in the Peterson and Monty Alexander style and Hamilton is a much sought-after drummer in jazz circles.

These three tackle 11 hardy standards and a blues by the pianist and sound as well integrated and together as anybody could wish. Jillette plays a solid bass all through, solos effectively on ’S Wonderful, and plays the melody through The Girl From Ipanema. Jones has a personal approach to improvised lines and even manages to make many of these grand old chestnuts sound fresh. Hamilton supports energetically, as he always does in this type of line up, and he gets ample solo space.

Jones saves his best, lyrical ballad approach for You’ve Changed and continues it on I’ll Close My Eyes. A bouncy version of On Green Dolphin Street gives an original slant to the old favourite with solid support from Jillette and Hamilton. The ballad medley is played by Jones as solo pianist.

Altogether this is a good, just under 58-minute set of freshly improvised bop and blues showing that it’s still possible to come up with new, inventive lines on old material. Gillette’s self-taught bass playing is (sorry about this) sharp and magical.

Discography
’S Wonderful; Doxy; What A Difference A Day Makes; The Girl From Ipanema; Watch What Happens; On Green Dolphin Street; You’ve Changed; Perdido; I’ll Close My Eyes; Close Your Eyes; Gone With The Wind; Blues For Burns (57.57)
Jones (p); Penn Jillette (b); Jeff Hamilton (d). Las Vegas, 19 December 2022.
Capri 74169-2