Jessica Jones Quartet


New Artists, USA -CD

Joni Mitchell had it right, to no great surprise from me, when early on in her career she was complimented (so the complimenter supposed) for being one of folk-rock's great female songwriters. Ms. Mitchell was not amused. "Why do they have to add the caveat 'female'?" she rhetorically demanded. I start off this review with the above anecdote because in a way I'm about to make the same mistake: how good it has been to see more women Jazz performers lately coming on the 'scene' like Sarah Manning, Deanna Witkowski, and yes, Ms. Jones here. OK, having made that faux pas, move along.

The Jones quartet (Jessica Jones, tenor saxophone and piano; Tony Jones, tenor saxophone; Derek Phillips, drums; Ken Filiano, bass) continue that 'West Coast cool school' attitude we recall from past decades but with no small alacrity they add on a free-bop tang, occasional Bach motet-like horn voicings (note how the tenors interweave in the opening Connie Crothers workhorse "Bird's Word" and come together with a knotty statement that would appear to have been about 8 bars of a classic Charlie Parker solo. Very nice!), and let's not forget an all-star guest cast like Crothers at the piano, Mark Taylor on austerely rounded French horn and the Art Ensemble of Chicago's Joseph Jarman. Are your ears burning yet? They should; Jarman weighs in delightfully on bass clarinet while yet more elegant near- baroque cadences brush Jessica and Tony's "Love and Persevere." Candace Jones' wispy reading of the vocal part of "These Foolish Things" makes the take but one should comment on how both Jones' tenor playing are very strongly rooted in early-to-middle-period Coltrane; throaty, searching and not without humor. I admit some of the other vocal bits don't slay me quite as completely; Jarman's "Happiness Is," a bouncy post-bopper, is brought to earth somewhat by Levi Jones' wobbly efforts, and Derek Phillips' rapping on the closer "Platform Shoes - Apocalypse" is OK but I'm just too anti-rap generally to really appreciate it. You might, though. Phillips' drumming is always dancy and appropriately filigreed, and Ken F's bass has a woody, expansive feel. Jessica, give the man a few more solos!

But it's the writing for horns that carries the CD onto a very rarefied level. Elastic, whirring, and yet with a classical sense of construction, they never fail to impress. Get this.

No excuses.

by Kenneth Egbert

New Sounds - February 2005

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