John Clayton/ Hank Jones – Parlor Series Vol. II: The Negro Spirituals Dialogue – ArtistShare ASO140, 46:55 ****1/2:
(Hank Jones – piano; John Clayton – acoustic bass)
In 1994 Hank Jones collaborated with bassist Charlie Haden to produce one of the most moving CD issues of that year, Steal Away. It combined spirituals, hymns, and folk songs in a reverential manner that showed the deeply moving affect that these well-known songs could have in the hands of two master musicians. This CD was at the top of my favorite list for that year. I gave it as a gift to friends and recommended it to many others. Their response was universally positive.
In 2010, just three months prior to Hank Jones’ passing, Haden recorded another set of spiritual folk songs with Jones, titled Come Sunday. It recreated the magic moments of its predecessor. I sadly (and selfishly) felt that we would need to be satisfied with these two sessions of profound beauty.
I am pleased to say that there is now a magnificent companion piece to add to the collection. Bassist John Clayton was as moved as many others with hearing Jones and Haden interact, and when Hank agreed to record Negro spirituals with him, he jumped at the chance. Just released as part of Clayton’s Parlor Series on ArtistShare, but recorded back in 2008, The Negro Spirituals Dialogue proves that the piano/bass duo is an ideal expression for the iconic spiritual music found primarily in the Afro-American gospel church. It is the music that Jones grew up with, and that Clayton has a deep connection to as well.
“Down by the Riverside” from Come Sunday has been re-explored, and from Steal Away there are five selections that are revisited: “It’s Me Oh Lord,” “Wade in the Water,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
John Clayton is the perfect partner for Hank, as his accompaniment is sensitive and intuitive, and the two communicate like close brothers. The Clayton family is well known in jazz circles with John the older brother to Jeff, the noted jazz saxophonist (and John’s son, the pianist, Gerald) – while the three Jones brothers (Hank, Thad, and Elvin) are jazz royalty that made a significant mark in writing jazz history.
The melodies in these recognizable traditional standards are well known, and Jones was rightfully concerned about not improvising on such sacred music. Nevertheless, Jones’ trademark elegance is ever present and Clayton’s use of the bow is an aural treat. The recording, editing, and mixing from Joel Moss is superb. If you were at all moved by the two Haden and Jones duo CDs, then the purchase of this latest Parlor Series issue on ArtistShare is a must purchase. It is available through both ArtistShare as well as Amazon.com.
TrackList: Wade in the Water, It’s Me Oh Lord (Standing in the Need of Prayer), Down By the Riverside, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Amazing Grace, Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, Ol’ Man River, Woke Up This Morning with My Mind Stayed on Jesus, The Old Rugged Cross, Love Divine, Swing Low Sweet Chariot