At the Bowl, these greats, each reaching the 90-year mark, show how it's done.
Jazz pianist Hank Jones and composer-arranger Gerald Wilson will celebrate their 90th birthdays over the next two months, but their performance at the Hollywood Bowl Wednesday night was full of youthful vibrancy, the pair demonstrating the skillful mastery that comes from seven decades spent perfecting their art.
The most compelling aspects of the evening were the ways in which the music reflected their individual personas. Jones always has been an elegant player, whether working as a soloist, a group member or an accompanist. His style is varied enough to move smoothly through stride piano, swing and bebop, drawing them through the lens of his own creative vision.
For this program, billed Hank and Gerald: 90 + 90," he displayed all those attributes, soloing lyrically on the standard tune Alone Together," superbly backing singer Roberta Gambarini in a Porgy and Bess" medley, dueting with tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano and guitarist Kenny Burrell, and romping through the blues with a quintet. Through it all, Jones had little to say, happy to allow the music to speak for itself.
Sadly, at no point during the program did these two jazz icons perform together. It was the only thing missing from an otherwise standout evening -- it would have been a rare joy to see them explore the common ground they share, regardless of their stylistic differences.