Mike Jones Trio – Roaring – Capri 74142-2 61:54 ****:
An effervescent take on some well-worn material.
(Mike Jones – piano; Katie Thiroux – bass; Matt Witek – drums)
Jazz and Las Vegas are words that are not necessarily synonymous. Although from the 50s through the 70s, many of the big bands such as Count Basie, Buddy Rich and Woody Herman had long standing gigs at places like The Sands and The Tropicana among others.
The current musical director for the esteemed magic team Penn and Teller, who have been ensconced for over fifteen years at The Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino, Mike Jones has gained a reputation as a versatile swinging pianist of the first order. His latest release Roaring with bassist Katie Thiroux and drummer Matt Witek showcases the tunes of the 1920s, each of which has stood the test of time.
Bassist Katie Thiroux opens “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” with a couple of bars of deep-throated bass playing, which then evolves into a swinging groove by pianist Jones who expands upon the theme with some block-chord ruminating. The tune had a bit of a renaissance in 1966, when Frank Sinatra’s evocative album Strangers In The Night was released and in addition to the title tune, Yes Sir, That’s My Baby was given a rousing interpretation by Sinatra. Given the increasing interest in all things Cuban, the little heard Irving Berlin number “I’ll See You In Cuba” seems especially apropos. The Latin flavor is particularly catchy.
Like much of the music of the 20s, “Mean To Me” was only two verses with short punchy phrases and a simple story line. Nevertheless, Billie Holiday’s 1937 version with Lester Young and Teddy Wilson captured the essence of the number. The extended piano version by Jones allows him free-rein to exhibit his nimble technique, as he covers the keyboard with style and skill. “Me And My Shadow” opens with a Latin vibe, but then segues into a frolicking swinger, with Jones in full flight as he demonstrates his fluent style and flowing curiosity.
As Jones and his cohorts continue their journey through these 1920s standards, it is clearly evident that they understand the musical foundation of these numbers, and they bring them back to life with a nimble and thoughtful style.
“Am I Blue” was originally written in 1929 and Ethel Waters had a hit with it the same year. However , it was not until 1944 when the song was performed by Hoagy Carmichael and Lauren Bacall in the Howard Hawkes noirish film To Have And Have Not that a broader appeal for the song was initiated. Jones and his mates take a casual meander through the theme and give a tasteful and sure-footed reading of the number. Using their imaginative resources, the Mike Jones Trio offers an effervescent take on some well-worn material.
TrackList: Yes Sir, That’s My Baby; If I Had You; I’ll See You In Cuba; Home; Mean To Me; I Found A New Baby; Me And My Shadow; What’ll I Do; I Can’t Believe You’re In Love With Me; Am I Blue