Trumpeter Sean Jones was a featured voice on Nancy Wilson's Grammy award-winning album, Turned to Blue, from 2006. Since then he has been associated with Wynton Marsalis' Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra lending his taut, clean lines to the sound of that formidable ensemble. Now, at 36 years of age, he has released his seventh album as a leader, titled Im-Pro-Vise, on the progressive Mack Avenue Label. Mr. Jones is maturing into a leading voice on the instrument and has developed as a talented leader and composer in the genre.
Mr. Jones has chosen a solid rhythm section comprised of the bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Obed Calvaire and a worthy foil, in the impressive Orrin Evans on piano. Jones offers an inspiring collection of music that pulses, soars, at times intrigues and challenges just enough to titillate the ears and stimulate the mind.
Compositions like the opener "60th & Broadway," a tip of the hat to his tenure at JALC, sail on a powerful flow created by Curtis and Calvaire. The tight rhythm section pulls you along comfortably while soloists Jones and Evans offer you surprising aural excursions along the way.
The Akinmusire-like pensive and haunting "Dark Times," could easily become a standard in its own right. Evans approaches his lines with a singularly introspective touch as he explores the outer boundaries of harmony. Jones and Evans have a strange but powerful simpatico that is on majestic display here as they counter each other's ideas over drum rolls by Calvaire. Evans rattling the keyboard in an agitated response to Jones calls. The trumpeter has great command of the high register of his voice producing piercing but clarion clear notes to great effect.
On" Interior Motives" Jones takes up the mute on his bell creating a distinctive Miles-inspired sound, at times sparse and lingering and at times flowing and mellifluous. Calvaire rims and toms rattle with pronounced syncopated lines and a variety accented timbres. Evans plays a percussive solo that twists and turns in interesting and surprising ways, at times teasing with almost familiar melodic fragments that appear and just as quickly disappear from his solo.
Jones composition "The Morning After" is a beautiful hymn with roots in the reflective music of worship. It has a Americana feel and could easily be played at a religious ceremony or at a dedication. Initially reflective and respectful, the song slowly blossoms into an eruption of euphoric-like playing by Jones over Evans' deft 'comping chords. Explosive rhythmic burst by Calvaire come to a powerfully expressive conclusion.
Under the walking bass line of Curtis and the gentle intro of Evans piano, Jones plays a down home blues that could easily be from an earlier time on "I Don't Give A Damn Blues."
"Dr. Jekyll" is a three plus minute exercise in musical tachycardia. It features a double time bass line by Curtis that leads into an Evans intro that sets up a jagged, buzzing-bee type statement by Jones, who plays flawlessly in high register with speed, precision and control.
Jones takes on the Lewis/Hamilton standard "How High the Moon" making it into a vehicle for abstract expression. Pianist Evans is particularly angular in his approach to the melody creating a parallel path to the head that holds to its edges without tracking it too closely to the main theme A brief bass solo by Curtis and then Jones returns to state the melody with a muted horn in sparse beauty and with little variation. Calvaire plays his brushes with a gossamer touch.
Another Jones composition "We'll Meet Under the Stars," played with a muted bell by Jones,is a ruminative and melancholy song that is played in a laconic style that saunters about in no apparent direction . Despite the wandering feeling Evans piano is expressively soft and sensitive here.
"New Journey" has a lively drive supplied by Calvaire's busy trap work, he could do well to tone down the cacophony a bit here to my ears. Jones uses the quick pace to show some impressive Hubbard-like runs on trumpet. Evans, once again provides a nice counterpoint to Jones solo, taking a more divergent path.
On Orrin Evan's "Don't Fall Off the L.E.J." the group seems to be in total sync as they precisely play the breaks and the spaces in between. Jones enters his solo with a smooth confidence that is paced perfectly with controlled slurs that are deeply expressive. Evans is at his funkiest here in great contrast to the otherwise cool sound of the piece.
The final piece is a composition by Stephen Sondheim "Not While I'm Around." Evans opens the song with a sparse piano intro that leads to the solemn sound of Jones' trumpet. The two play the melody in a tasty duet that is expressive, imaginative and just plain beautiful. These musicians have an affinity for each other. They obviously respect the emotive power of this song as they play it with a reverence and sensitivity that cannot be easily duplicated. The performance is both captivating and sincere.