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Hank Jones The Touch Review

Album. Released 2002.  

BBC Review

Re-issue of two sessions from an elder statesman of the mainstream piano together with...

Peter Marsh 2002

Hank Jones (elder brother of Elvin and Thad) is one of the elder statesmen of Jazz piano. Like fellow Detroit school player Tommy Flanagan, Jones' style is marked by an unfussy, straightahead approach derived from stride playing,delivered with a deceptively light touch. Unfairly, his reputation as an accompanist (mainly due to 5 years with Ella Fitzgerald) has always outshone that of his abilities as a soloist, despite a fine string of trio dates that stretches from the 50s to today.

This set pairs up two Jones sessions, Rockin in Rhythm and Lazy Afternoon from 1977 and 1989 respectively. The earlier set sees Jones in relaxed, playful form and marks a rare dalliance with Fender Rhodes piano on a few tunes. Like Bill Evans, he doesn't sound comfortable with the thicker sonorities of the electric instrument, though on "My Ship" Jones' delicacy shines brightly. The title track is admirably despatched (as is a bouncy "Bags' Groove"), with the wonderful Ray Brown and drummer Jimmie Smith in supple, propulsive form throughout.

If Rockin' in Rhythm is meat n' potatoes stuff, then Lazy Afternoon is definitely the gravy. Pairing Jones' then regular trio of Dave Holland and Keith Copeland with Ken Peplowski on half the tracks, it's agem of a session. Peplowski's airy revivalist alto and clarinet (both drawing heavily from Benny Goodman) fit neatly with the leader's classy swing. The lovely title track has a whiff of Ellington in its carefully paced atmospherics, with discreet touches of celeste colouring the long shadows cast by Peplowski's doleful clarinet. Beautiful, resonant stuff.

Holland's presence may surprise those used to hearing him in more adventurous settings, but he seems quite at home. As usual he's inventive and alert, turning out fine solos (especially on J.J. Johnson's poignant "Lament"). Copeland's a bit heavy handed at times; some of his breaks sound as though they've been beamed in from a different session entirely. Despite this slight reservation, it's hard not to be captivated by this warmhearted, engaging set. Recommended.

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