Monday, April 2, 2018

Hank Jones in Copenhagen on Storyville

courtesy of Naxos of America

Once again Storyville Records, the oldest independent jazz label in Europe, has come out with an album that demands attention from all of those who are seriously attentive when listening to jazz. The title of the album is Hank Jones in Copenhagen – Live at Jazzhus Slukefter 1983, and it will be released this coming Friday. As usual, those who cannot wait can rely on to take a pre-order.

To be more specific, all nine tracks come from a single club date on June 6, 1983. Jones leads a trio with Danish bassist Mads Vinding and drummer Shelly Manne, with whom he had been collaborating at least since they had been making recordings together in the Seventies. Jones was born on July 31, 1918, meaning that he would be turning 65 in a little less that two months after this gig. However, since Jones died at the age of 91, this was hardly a landmark occasion; and his entire career as a jazzman spanned a good 65 years. Jazzhus Slukefter was located in Tivoli Gardens and was used frequently by Storyville for capturing live sessions.

Jones’ career was not only lengthy but also diverse. He was as comfortable playing with Nancy Wilson as he was with Charlie Parker. As a result this Copenhagen date was divided between instrumental accounts of vocal standards and adventurous bebop. Parker shows up on two of the tracks with “Au Privave” and “Scrapple from the Apple;” and Bud Powell is there with “Budo.” Benny Golson fills out the instrumental compositions with “Stablemates.” The songs are “Just Friends” (John Klenner), “Alone Together” (Arthur Schwartz), “It Could Happen to You” (Jimmy Van Heusen), “Tangerine” (Victor Schertzinger), and “What’s New?” (Bob Haggart). (Apologies to those who think this is too specific. The track listings name both composer and lyricist, but not always in the same order!)

Taken as a whole, this is definitely one of those wish-I-was-there sessions. Jones was a prodigiously inventive improviser; and, like many of his contemporaries, he could deftly slip in references to the classical repertoire that never sounded out of place. His passing citation of one of the themes that Igor Stravinsky used in his score for the ballet “Petrushka” is likely to tickle many listeners’ funny bones.

Manne could always be counted on to punctuate familiar rhythms with unexpected off-beat shots, but Jones also allowed him several opportunities to launch into extended solos. For his part Vinding was definitely no slouch in improvising bass solos. The entire trio is in particularly high gear in “It Could Happen to You,” which tears along at a far faster pace than any vocalist (with the possible exception of Ella Fitzgerald) could manage.

If all that does not make the case that no serious jazz collector should be without this album, I have no idea what will!

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