Personnel: Hank Jones: piano, solo piano (9, 11); Oliver Jones: piano; Brandi Disterheft: bass (1, 2, 3); Jim Doxas: drums (1, 2, 3)
Recording information: Place Des Arts (Orchestral Rehearsal Hall), Montreal (06/25/2008/06/26/2008).
Duo piano recordings have been dismissed as a gimmick by many critics and even a few pianists, including the late Tommy Flanagan, but the pairing of two pianists often produces outstanding results. This is the case in the pairing of Oliver Jones (a Canadian who deserves to be better known worldwide) with the legendary Hank Jones, who remains active into his nineties and who has recorded duo piano albums with Flanagan, George Shearing, and Hank Jones, in addition to taking part in the one-off Jazz Piano Quartet with Dick Hyman, Sir Roland Hanna, and Marian McPartland. The sessions are a tribute in part to Oscar Peterson, as both men knew him well and Oliver studied piano with Peterson's sister. They add a rhythm section (bassist Brandi Disterheft and drummer Jim Doxas) on the first three tracks, highlighted by a soulful, gospel-inflected take of "Groove Merchant." Five of the remaining seven selections are duo piano sans rhythm section, including a romp through "Makin' Whoopee," an elegant "Star Eyes," and two powerful interpretations of Peterson originals "Blues for Big Scotia" and "Cakewalk." Hank Jones has two solo features, a thoughtful rendition of "Monk's Mood" and William Steigmeyer's rarely performed "Lonely Woman." Both pianists are on hand for Oliver Jones' warm tribute to Peterson, "I Remember OP."
All Music Guide
What a surprise to hear the first-ever recording that joins piano maestros Hank Jones and Oliver Jones.
A Detroit native, ninety-year-old Hank Jones is from the family that gave us Thad "Bartok with Wings" Jones and polyrhythmist Elvin Jones, and he has participated in historic bebop sessions with Charlie Parker and memorable duets with Tommy Flanagan. Montreal's Oliver Jones, who once followed in the footsteps of Oscar Peterson, has emerged to forge a virtuosic path as a Canadian music icon not unlike his erstwhile predecessor.
But their performances shine even brighter than the rare nature of this recording. Both men have the virtuosity to turn even an innocuous repertoire into something special, and thankfully don't have to here; Pleased to Meet You gives them something to work with.
Significantly, the label has chosen not to identify the order of their solos on ensemble pieces and duets. Yet it isn't hard to tell the two men apart. Hank Jones has the touch of an alchemist: notes are never ebony and ivory once he touches them lightly. They become burnished purveyors of dynamic sound, full of tonal color and timbral elegance. He holds an ever-burning torch for the stride geniuses of the past, such as Willie "The Lion" Smith, stepping on flatted fifths every once in a while (on "Ripples," for instance). On "Monk's Mood" and "Lonely Woman," both of which he plays alone, American music history flows through, and swirls around him. He is fleet-fingered, playing solos with rapid-fire double helix runs. Sometimes he turns them into inverted commas, pausing before quoting the melodies inside out.
Hank is generous with Oliver, allowing the younger man space to run riot with his florid, almost Byzantine whorls. Once it was well nigh impossible to tell Oliver Jones and Oscar Peterson apart, but the younger pianist has become his own man. He shows occasionally that he has heard Peterson-and Ravel and Debussy as well. But he quotes only from his own vast store of intelligent and melodious phrases and metaphors. He constructs his solos like towering architectural wonders with grace and legato splendor. And he is tender as the night as he eulogizes his dear friend on "I Remember OP."
These two giants are joined on bass and drums by young pretenders to their respective thrones: Brandi Disterheft is a princess of the bass violin. She plays with great sensitivity and solos with confident majesty on all her tracks. Jim Doxas, Oliver Jones' drummer, shows himself to be a sublime melodist when he deftly brushes brass and skins on "What Am I Here For."
This is truly rare record-a moving document in modern music that recalls the majesty of yesterday and the promise of tomorrow.