Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mike Jones: Plays Well with Others

Capri Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Plays Well with Others

You’re probably not familiar with pianist Mike Jones unless you’re a regular visitor to Las Vegas, and a fan of magicians Penn & Teller; Jones became an opening act for their show in 2006, and is with them still, as I write this review. Jones provides an hour of music — with a beaming Penn Jillette on bass — before the magicians take the stage for the main event.

Jones, born in 1962, was performing professionally by the age of 10. At the suggestion of Oscar Peterson, he attended Boston’s Berklee School of Music, after which he pursued a career as a studio musician. In addition to being an on-air pianist, Jones performed with Boston and New York City jazz groups; as his local fame grew, he became part of events such as the “Floating Jazz Concerts” that were held on the SS Norway and Queen Elizabeth II. 

Jones’ style is traditional, rather than bop, and he loves the old standards. This album contains a baker’s dozen of classic tunes: “Besame Mucho,” “It’s a Wonderful World,” “September Song,” “Detour Ahead,” “Day by Day” and others that will bring back memories. Fans who’ve seen him in Vegas know that he often plays at blazing speeds; his right hand is like lightning, and his left hand is much “busier” than what you’ll hear from an average pianist. 

For this album, though, Jones has toned down the “Gee, look how fast I am” fireworks; instead, he concentrates on the wonderful melodic lines found within these standards.

Jones is joined by Jeff Hamilton, one of the finest drummers playing today, and 21-year-old bass prodigy Mike Gurrola. As expected, they provide smooth and swinging support. You’d camp out at any lounge or concert hall to hear this trio, and you’d totally enjoy these guys.

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