Friday, June 29, 2007

Joe Lovano and Hank Jones: Kids

Kids, the title of the live duo CD recently released by elder statesman pianist Hank Jones and nulli secundus tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, is partly a reference to the playfulness expressed by the two.

Could it also be a nod to the old maxim, "jazz keeps you young"? Maybe so: The two play as vigorously, and as creatively, as any twenty- or thirty-something jazz star out there.

Below is my review of the CD, as published in this week's issue of Las Vegas CityLife.

Joe Lovano and Hank Jones

Kids: Duets Live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola (Blue Note)

Anyone seeking an aural snapshot of the journey jazz has taken over the last seven decades, from pre-swing to post-post-bop, will gain from a close listen to Kids, a musically rewarding session pairing under-appreciated pianist Hank Jones, an Art Tatum disciple, with John Coltrane-inspired tenor saxophone giant Joe Lovano. Jones, 88, older brother of late legendary players/bandleaders Thad and Elvin, and Lovano, 54, collaborate famously on standards and original compositions during a program culled from two evenings' worth of performances recorded at Dizzy's, a gem of a listening room in Manhattan's Jazz at Lincoln Center.

The intimacy alone is worth the admission price to the disc: It's a joy hearing Jones' orchestral, whole-piano playing and Lovano's rich, resonant tenor front and center, unimpeded by other instruments (the two have played together in the latter's quartet). The co-leaders each contribute a tune. Lovano's "Charlie Chan" is a zig-zagging bop piece reminiscent of another Charlie, while Jones' "Lullaby" is a gorgeous ballad, its melody given a poignant reading by the saxophonist, and echoed and deepened via the pianist's solo. Several Thad Jones compositions, written for big band, are effectively reborn as duo pieces: stride-tinged "Lady Luck," interval-jumping "Little Rascal On a Rock" and the swaggering "Kids Are Pretty People." And the most appealing piece may be Thelonious Monk's typically quirky "Four-in-One," penned by a pianist born nine months earlier than Jones: The saxophonist's fluttering, rangy unaccompanied intro is a real gem, handily matched by Jones' imaginative two-fisted work later in the piece.

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