The Art of Elvin; The Art of the Great Jazz Trio; The Art of Standards
Drawing on 130 years of collective skill, talent and genius, The Great Jazz Trio’s Someday My Prince Will Come is both a landmark recording and a fond farewell. Led by pianist Hank Jones with brother Elvin Jones and Richard Davis (who appeared on Elvin’s 1967 Impulse! release, Heavy Sounds), the album is a celebratory journey through the standards repertoire with three giants of jazz, one recently departed and greatly missed.
“Elvin commanded respect from all persons, regardless of their musical preference,” Hank Jones says. “He was that kind of a drummer. Everybody appreciated his expertise, his technique, his drive, his energy. He always gave 500%, all the time. He gave everything he had and then some.”
Someday My Prince Will Come documents the final meeting of the two Jones brothers in the recording studio, brought together with Richard Davis by Eighty-Eight’s producer Yasohachi “88” Itoh.
“This was our last session together,” Jones recalls. “Elvin and I recorded an album a few years earlier for Verve (Upon Reflection: The Music Of Thad Jones). But we hadn’t done that many over the years really (Elvin’s Dear John C. and Elvin! ). Of course, Elvin had his own group, so our paths didn’t cross that much. But this time they happened to with Richard Davis on bass.”
Surpassing expectations consistent with such virtuoso musicians performing within the aura of jazz mastery and perhaps under the spell of sibling telepathy, Someday My Prince Will Come is everything a Great Jazz Trio recording should be: explosive, sublime, daring, evocative, and of course, swinging.
“Yasohachi Itoh selected the tunes and the personnel,” Jones explains. “It was patterned after the so-called Great Jazz Trio, which consisted of Ron Carter, Tony Williams and myself. That was the basic idea behind it.”
Founded in 1976 by Hank Jones with drummer Tony Williams and bassist Ron Carter, The Great Jazz Trio performed regularly at the Village Vanguard resulting in their first album, Love For Sale. The original trio recorded numerous albums including Direct From L.A. and Milestones, but by the mid-80s the Trio, with Jones at the helm, enjoyed a revolving cast that included such drummers as Al Foster, Roy Haynes and Jimmy Cobb, and bassists Eddie Gomez, George Mraz and Mads Vinding. The Trio has recorded with such all-star guests as Art Farmer, Benny Golson and Nancy Wilson. At the center of The Great Jazz Trio’s music is Hank Jones’ sensitive and sublime piano work, built on his exceptional taste, melodic sophistication and graceful approach.
Hank Jones grew up in Pontiac, Michigan, where he studied piano and fell under the spell of Earl Hines, Fats Waller and Art Tatum. While playing with territory bands in 1944 around Grand Rapids he met Lucky Thompson, who invited him to New York to work at the Onyx Club with Hot Lips Page. Jones was soon influenced by bop musicians, and began working with John Kirby, Howard McGhee and Coleman Hawkins. Several Jazz at the Philharmonic tours followed; Jones also accompanied Ella Fitzgerald from 1948 to 1953. After several years as a freelance musician with Charlie Parker, Artie Shaw, Lester Young and Wes Montgomery, in 1959 Jones became a CBS staff musician where he remained until 1976. He joined the Broadway musical Ain’t Misbehavin’ as pianist and conductor, but continued to record prolifically both as an unaccompanied soloist and a member of various ensembles, including most notably The Great Jazz Trio.
Elvin Jones was (in)arguably the greatest jazz drummer of the 20th Century, his contribution to the John Coltrane Quartet resounding as one of the most important, lasting and influential statements made by any musician. Moving to New York from Pontiac, Michigan, in 1955, Elvin’s still nascent style can be heard on the early recordings of Sonny Rollins, Donald Byrd, Bud Powell and J.J. Johnson. Upon joining Coltrane in 1960, Jones began exploring an intricate, uniquely expressive polyrhythmic style that was the perfect foil to Coltrane’s towering improvisations. Though often considered one of the most powerful of jazz drummers, Jones was also, like his brother Hank, exquisitely sensitive to all forms of music - his brushwork is as influential as his stickwork. Elvin recorded thousands of albums as a sideman, recorded several outstanding albums as a leader, and played with his own Jazz Machine band until his death in May, 2004.
Currently the professor of bass and black music studies at the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davis is one of the most distinguished bassists in jazz. Equally adept in classical settings, Davis began his career playing in the dance bands of Chicago before relocating to New York where he recorded with Sarah Vaughan, Booker Little, Eric Dolphy and the Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis Big Band. Throughout the '60s and '70s Davis also performed with symphony orchestras under the baton of Igor Stravinsky and Leonard Bernstein. Not content with limited horizons, Davis has also recorded with John Lennon, Barbara Streisand and Frank Sinatra. In 1993 Davis received the Arts Midwest Jazz Master Award.
Regarding Someday My Prince Will Come, Hank Jones is typically candid.
“When you are doing a recording session you strive for a perfect recording. The goal is to make something perfect; to make a flawless product. So whatever the mood is has to be in tune with that objective.”
Someday My Prince Will Come is the latest chapter in Hank Jones illustrious career, one built on elegance, musical mastery and quintessential command of the art form.
“What you do in this business is keep doing what you do to the best of your ability. Whatever someone’s opinion of me is, it doesn’t concern me. I try to do my very best at all times and that is it. That is all I can do.”
Columbia Eighty-Eights Someday My Prince Will Come arrives in stores on September 14, 2004