All songs written by Hank Jones
Corea also shows up as one of the guests on this set from a younger-generation American piano star, former Art Blakey postbopper Geoff Keezer. Sublime is a series of keyboard duets - with Corea, Kenny Barron, Benny Green and Mulgrew Miller - and solo performances from the leader, celebrating the career and compositions of pianist Hank Jones, a breezy octogenarian bopper and brother of Elvin.
Jones's melodies are delightful - Keezer neatly catches his harmonic sophistication and melodic development on the delicately stepping Angel Face - and he approaches blues from mischievous tangents. He lends a relaxed sensuality to stride (as on Time Warp), and imparts a multi-directional ambiguity to ballads.
There's perhaps too big a wedge of slow music in the middle of the set, and it might approach cocktail piano on a casual listen - but although this is perhaps an item for specialised tastes, it's orthodox acoustic jazz piano of a very high class.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Sublime: Honoring the music of Hank Jones
My relationship with Hank Jones' music began when I was fifteen, with a solo piano recording entitled "Tiptoe Tapdance." That album opens with "It's Me, O Lord," a traditional hymn that is transformed in Hank's hands into a thoroughly modern, superbly crafted theme-and-variations. I was immediately drawn to Hank's light and even touch, his subtle shifts of color and texture, and his ultra-hip harmonic language, especially the unusual wide-open intervals in his left-hand voicings. Benny Green agrees and reverently says: "Hank Jones brings an apparently infinite array of sounds and textures from the piano, with his astoundingly diverse combinations of touch and pedal deployment." His solo playing "encompasses the feeling and expansiveness of an orchestra." His albums are a virtual encyclopedia of jazz piano, and remain my guideposts to this day.
While Hank's style is firmly rooted in the stride piano tradition of his predecessors-Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson, and Art Tatum-he is utterly contemporary. He is both inheritor and creator of a legacy. Since the Forties, Hank has been a key figure in jazz, performing and recording with Coleman Hawkins, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstine, and Charlie Parker, on up through Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Al Foster, and today's young generation. Echoing Benny's sentiment, Mulgrew Miller adds: "Hank Jones embodies all that is my ideal in an artist: creativity, mastery, virtuosity, and taste, commingled in a magical combination. Unfailingly swinging and soulful, he is one of the essential pillars of modern jazz piano. Hank, the man, is a role model for all who would have longevity and sustained creativity. Hank Jones, the musician, is an example to all who would aspire towards perfection."
Much has been written about his piano playing, yet it is a lesser known fact that Hank is also a prolific composer. In fact, Hank has lamented that even he doesn't get to record his own songs very often. With this in mind, I set out to record a program of Hank Jones music. Every song on the CD was composed by Hank with the exception of "Favors," a Claus Ogerman original that Hank has performed often and that has become a kind of signature piece. What better way to celebrate his tremendous contribution to jazz and to the piano itself than with five pianists, all of whom share a love and admiration for Hank and his music! Inspired by the duo recordings of Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan, I felt it appropriate to use a similar approach for this project. Mulgrew Miller and I have performed together with the Contemporary Piano Ensemble (a group that also includes James Williams, Harold Mabern, and Donald Brown), but never before as a duo. This was also my first time playing with Chick Corea, Kenny Barron, and Benny Green. Playing with another pianist sometimes can be challenging, but everyone came with open ears and an open heart, and I believe that such receptivity allowed the music to really fly.
As presented here, the music is by no means a complete representation of Hank's work. Rather, the attempt was made to find pieces that would suit the individual tastes and highlight some of the many gifts of each pianist. For example, Chick loves free improvisation. To provide a space for us to explore this while remaining true to Hank's composition, we expanded the last two bars of the original melody of "Intimidation" into a free-form introduction. "Favors," originally a medium-tempo modal swinger, is played with Kenny as a down-tempo R&B ballad. Mulgrew suggested "Alpha," and Benny chose "Things Are So Pretty in the Spring." In addition to the duets, I offer two solo pieces. For "Sublime," I composed an introduction utilizing some of Hank's harmonic concepts.
Inspired by Hank's artistry and generosity of spirit, this project has been a joyous sharing and celebration of a man and his music. We invite you to sit back and enjoy this tribute to an unsung hero, our esteemed elder and musical grandfather, Hank Jones.
- Geoffrey Keezer