Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Brotherhood of Great Music

With the May 16 passing of Hank Jones (pictured), the last of the Jones brothers is gone. Pianist Hank, drummer Elvin and trumpeter/composer/arranger/bandleader Thad made up the greatest sibling set in the history of jazz, each one a titan on his instrument. I've been a fan of all three for some time, and can still remember my first encounters with each. I wanted to honor their legacy on AccuJazz, so I've created an entire channel devoted to their music, called "Keeping Up With the Joneses." We're also featuring an extra dose of the brothers on the AccuJazz main channel. Below, I offer some thoughts about each brother.


Hank Jones played a lot of piano in his life. The start of his professional career predates Bebop, a style of which he became an undisputed master. He is known for his impeccable taste and distinctive, sensitive touch. While horn players are often easily distinguished by their tone, it's less common for a pianist to have such a recognizable sound; Hank Jones' touch is about as distinctive as it gets. Our channel is playing a handful of his albums from throughout his long career, from a great 1955 session to his 2007 duo CD release with Joe Lovano, Kids. The channel also features his sideman work with folks like Cannonball Adderley, Milt Jackson and Charlie Haden.


As some of you may know, I am a drummer. Elvin Jones is something of a god to my kind. His propulsive yet elastic time feel, uncanny facility with complex rhythms, and strong, emotional punctuations combined to create a style that has influenced every jazz drummer that came after him. Words can't really do justice to his playing. Just get the channel going and you'll hear what I'm talking about soon enough. His recorded output is basically the Rosetta Stone of modern jazz drumming. Our channel is playing some of his work as a leader, but you'll mostly hear him as a sideman, in his famous role as John Coltrane's drummer, as well as with other greats like Roland Kirk, Larry Young, Ornette Coleman and Joe Henderson.

Finally, Thad Jones. His reputation as jazz legend would have been secure for his trumpet skills alone, but two decades into his professional career he started writing a lot of music, eventually becaming known as one of the great jazz composer/arrangers. Our channel is playing a bit of his sideman work and a 1958 small-group session he led for Debut records, but Thad is mainly represented by the legendary big band he co-led with drummer Mel Lewis. Widely considered the greatest post-Basie big band, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra made the case that large-ensemble jazz is capable of more than novelty and nostalgia. Thad's original compositions and arrangements fit squarely in the big band tradition, but pushed at that tradition's boundaries ever so insistently, with unprecedented harmonic and rhythmic complexity and deft use of funk and rock influences. College big bands all over the world are still constantly challenged by Thad's timeless writing. The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra collaboration with vocalist Joe Williams is an all-time favorite album of mine, so you'll be hearing a lot of Joe's pipes on the channel.

One more link the the channel: Keeping Up With the Joneses.