Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Great Jazz Trio - Collaboration (411 Records, 2004)

The groups name is hardly hyperbole, combining the brother duo of pianist Hank Jones and drummer Elvin Jones to the legendary bassist Richard Davis gives the trio something like 125 years collective experience playing in the best groups in jazz history. This album is a relaxed run through of familiar standards played by rock solid musicians with unimpeachable standards. Beginning with Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-a-Ning" the group sets a jaunty upbeat tempo with excellent soloing all around, particularly from Elvin, who plays with plenty of fire, but also the restraint of a wise veteran, never overwhelming the sound of the group. This sets the tone for the remainder of the album, rock solid group interplay with the solos being passed around in abundance. Davis has long been a favorite of mine and his playing on this session is superb: he alternates between plucked and bowed bass on "Long Ago and Far Away" and his beautiful thick sound on the ballad "My Funny Valentine" is deep and thoughtful. This is one of the final records Elvin Jones made before he passed away, but he shows no hints of illness, playing the brushes with great finesse, and the sticks with great restraint. Hank Jones is a master as well, making complete use of the entire keyboard and getting a full bodied and lyrical sound from his instrument. There are no real surprises here, the tunes and musicians are very familiar to jazz fans, but the enjoyment of hearing master musicians that are completely in their element and playing with joy and beauty is always a pleasure.

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