YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Hank Jones: Simplicity's a thing of beauty

May 16, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Elegance, maturity and consummate musicality were the words that kept coming to mind at Hank Jones' Jazz Bakery performance Wednesday -- along with a sense of wonder at the 84-year-old pianist's remarkable ability to explore jazz with the sort of elemental focus implied in Thoreau's classic instruction to simplify one's life.

In a program embracing no fewer than 10 tunes -- all jazz classics of one sort or another -- Jones rarely soloed for more than a chorus or two. But in every case, he found the song's heart, harmonically and rhythmically, embracing it with beautifully crafted improvisations.

His ballad work, in particular -- J.J. Johnson's "Lament," Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" and his brother Thad Jones' "A Child Is Born" -- was an exquisite display of the articulate touch and subtle gradations of tone that have always characterized his playing. In faster pieces -- Charlie Parker's "Au Privave," Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-a-Ning" and Toots Thielemans' "Bluesette" -- his bop heritage was the foundation for a series of brisk solos, their lines arching through the harmonies with highflying, airy openness. As an added touch, Jones occasionally tossed in bits of whimsy, quoting other songs, humorously lowering the volume on "Speak Low" to the point at which the music was inaudible.

Accompanying Jones, bassist George Mraz and drummer Dennis Mackrel added swing, empathy and musical intelligence to the mix. Mraz, his notes always hitting the center of the pitch, soloed with his usual imaginative mastery, while his supportive playing added a rich, propulsive bottom.

Mackrel's drumming, especially well-displayed in his brush work solos on ballads, was illuminated by his far-ranging experience and his skills as a composer and arranger.


Hank Jones Trio

Where: Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Ave., Culver City

When: Tonight-Sunday, 8 and 9:30 p.m.

Price: $30

Contact: (310) 271-9039

Los Angeles Times Articles