Regattabar, Cambridge, MA, October 25, 2006, first set
This young band is going places. Not every jazz lover will dig the group’s hard edge but they’ll recognize the great technique each musician brings to the table. First and foremost, there’s Sean Jones himself. He’s young and has some serious musical credentials.
Jones’ first number, a cut from his “Gemini” CD, set the mold for the rest of the evening. A slow, melodic intro with piano, bass, percussion, alto sax and Jones’ trumpet outlines a melody, and then - everyone duck.
Photo courtesy of Jones's web site
Faster than you can say John Coltrane, fierce and frenzied solos blast from Jones’ trumpet and Brian Hogan’s alto saxophone. A conversation between piano, bass, and percussion followed with an arrhythmic dynamic then Jones and Hogan returned to sock the song home. The audience, made up of lots of Berklee School of Music students and adventurous types like 'ptatlarge' was put on notice: this was gonna be a night to savor bop played by very cool cats.
Although this quintet could play sweet, soft, even rhapsodic, music, they aren’t interested in playing it safe. They start with a melody, turn it inside out, pull it to shreds, then put it back together and check for burn marks.
Jones second piece, “Divine Inspiration”, from his new CD titled “Roots,”had its own roots in his childhood. “I was brought up in the church and had a very soulful upbringing,” he said, as he brought the trumpet to his lips. He blew a smoky, languid opening frame then slowly accelerated his phrasing and before long was hurtling through phrases, nimbly fingering the trumpet with lightning speed and playing at that high, thin level only a horn in good hands can reach. It's often hard to hear references to the introductory melody once the musicians take it for a cerebral ride in their solos but there's no denying how well they play. Once again, the group took the song apart and rearranged it like a rubik’s cube.
‘In Her Honor’ was named after a former band mate now playing with Beyonce and “earning several more zeroes at the end of her paycheck than she ever saw from me,” Jones chuckled. The rendition had a high Coltrane quotient, fast and furious, with the Berklee students roaring hosannas from their seats as Jones again played about 1001 notes per minute at impossibly high octane level. Brian Hogan's vigorous ‘Trane-like sax solo had Jones grinning like a schoolboy as he listened while leaning against the wall at the side of the intimate stage setting at the Regattabar. Like the lull after a violent thunderstorm, the piece ended peacefully with all five musicians playing a slow, swinging melodic thread.
Jones likes to riff with the audience, sort of like the host of the party checking in with everyone to make sure they’re having a good time. “This is a ‘feel the love’ tune. I wrote it for my nephew. I want you to think about humanity, not notes and chords which people don’t care about. There are a lot of educated people in this room. I want you to feel the music, feel the love.” He proceeded to play “BJ's Tune” as a quartet, sans saxophone.
This tune started out in Chet Baker territory, quiet brushwork from Obed Calvert’s drum kit, soft counterpoints from Orin Evans piano and Lou Curtis’s bass, then began to build momentum. If you’d been paying attention to the way earlier pieces were structured, you could sense the liquid intensity building and wondered how long it would last before it blew wide open.
Bam. Sean Jones’ extended solo flowed like lava from an awakened Vesuvius. Slowly rocking back and forth, bending his knees as he drew in mighty breaths, Jones blew steam from that trumpet. For several minutes, high, piercing, intense, trumpet notes full of passion and exhilaration, with Calvert rolling thunder all over his kit, Evans jamming chords on the keyboard and Curtis’s bass holding the line. His eruptive energy spent, Jones turned on his heel, leaned over the open piano box, and began to play into it. The piano wires began to reverberate like tuning forks, creating a soft, mystical, eerie lullaby - an amazing juxtaposition to the white heat that preceded it. And slowly, BJ’s Tune trailed off, as softly as it began. Yes, Sean, we felt the love.
Jones played one more number, “Serpent”, but honestly, I couldn’t get “BJ’s Tune” out of my head.
Jones teaches at Duquesne University, has a Master’s Degree from Rutgers and has a classical trumpet performance degree from Youngstown State University. Myles Davis would be smiling from the great beyond to hear that Jones was inspired by Davis recording of “Kind Of Blue,” which Jones recalls hearing when he was in fifth grade. He’s played with big-timers like Jimmy Heath, the Illinois Jacquet Big Band, Joe Lovano, Jon Faddis and the Louis Armstrong Legacy Band.
Someday down the line, a fifth grader might hear Sean Jones playing his horn and think, “That’s what I want to do, I want to play that trumpet.”
To check him out further, see http://www.seanjonesjazz.com