Mike Jones Trio – Plays Well With Others – Capri Records 74126, 63:39 [9/17/13] ****:
(Mike Jones – piano; Mike Gurrola – bass; Jeff Hamilton – drums)
Las Vegas is not often thought of as a jazz mecca unless you are author Bill Moody who frequently places his protagonist pianist Evan Horn in that locale in a couple of his novels such as Sound Of The Trumpet and Death Of A Tenor Man. However unlikely as it seems, topnotch pianist Mike Jones has been working in the city for many years and his talent is on full display with the Capri Records release Mike Jones Trio – Plays Well With Others.
With a swashbuckling two-handed attack and a command of the keyboard, Mike Jones (who in real life is the musical director of the Penn & Teller Show at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas) along with bassist Mike Gurrola and the impeccable drummer Jeff Hamilton work their magical way through a set of well-known compositions interspersed with a couple of Jones’ original blues compositions.
The set opens with Jones offering a stop-time intro to “Besame Mucho”, then rolling out in full swing style with drummer Jeff Hamilton riding herd with his cymbals to give the whole piece a solid groove. Louis Armstrong’s “It’s a Wonderful World” should not be confused with the Harold Adamson composition that the band rips into with Jones delivering delicious single note runs that are dazzling. Just to show that he is not all flash and dash, Jones demonstrates that he has a strong affinity for ballads and understands their lyrical underpinnings as evidenced by his take on Harry Warren’s “I Know Why And So Do You” along with the well-known “I Thought About You.”
Jones’ own compositions “Box-Viewing Blues “ and “Obscuro Blues” are blues in name only as they certainly do not adhere to the standard twelve bar format, but rather are up-tempo swingers with the latter showcasing bassist Gurrola’s strong tone and some tasty brush work from drummer Hamilton. As for the other tracks, of special interest is Jones’ solo effort on “Detour Ahead” which is given an especially thoughtful reading. The Four Freshmen had a popular hit with “Day By Day” which Jones turns into a romp pushed along by Jeff Hamilton’s brush work marked by his effervescent solo. Finally Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Corcovado” is covered in a bristling bossa beat supported by Gurrola’s authoritative bass and Hamilton’s assertive drumming.
Mike Jones is a probing and confident pianist with tremendous technique who deserves a wider audience. [Plus a really clever album title and art!…Ed.]
TrackList: Besame Mucho; It’s A Wonderful World; September Song; I Know Why And So Do You; Box Viewing Blues; Detour Ahead; Day By Day; Corcovado; I’m Walkin’; Deed I Do; I’m Old Fashioned; I Thought About You; Obscuro Blues