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 The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, August 05, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
Hollywood Bowl: A review in Friday's Calendar section of Hank Jones and Gerald Wilson's performance at the Hollywood Bowl stated that pianist Jones backed singer Roberta Gambarini on a medley from "Porgy and Bess." It was Tamir Hendelman who played piano during the medley.
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.
Exuberant and outgoing by nature, Wilson has been working with the perfect outlet for his skills -- the big jazz orchestra -- since the late '30s. Leading a 20-piece ensemble with guest appearances from Burrell, trumpeter Jon Faddis, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, bassist Christian McBride and singer Ernie Andrews, he reached across the full breadth of his career with a combination of music, laughter and colorful reminiscence.
Starting with one of his earliest tunes, the whimsically titled jazz waltz "Yard Dog Mazurka," he proceeded through the in-the-pocket swing of "Blues for the Count" and wound up with the mariachi-inspired "Viva Tirado." Along the way, his son, guitarist Anthony Wilson, conducted his own well-crafted tribute to his father's birthday with the astrologically titled work "Virgo."
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.