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Reviews: Hank Jones, The Great Jazz Trio: Last Recording

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Reviews: 1

Review by Oakland November 4, 2011 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
With the dearth of jazz, especially recent releases, available to SACD it's no wonder that many jazz lovers are excited over the much welcome analog tape sources to DSD transfers, most notably from SHM and Analog Productions. And while the excitement surrounding these releases is well deserved (I have a few Analog Production releases but I have only heard SHMs at audio shows and dealers) it may be lost that the SOTA in modern sound quality (closer to what I hear at live settings) reside with a good number of originally recorded jazz SACDs. And more importantly, many of the performances are exemplary. And most of these are available at lower prices than SHMs. One of these gems is Hank Jones, "The Great Jazz Trio: Last Recording" on the Eight-Eight label.
Hank Jones, who as a piano virtuoso was a keystone in the history of jazz, died last year at 91 years old. The "Last Recording", recorded 3 months before he died, is (for me) a striking quintessence of his 70+ years contribution to jazz.

To put the recording quality in perspective, the Eighty-Eight recordings are demonstratively superior to the Chesky "West of 5th" New York Sessions disc that also featured Hank Jones. And the stirring musicianship is worth the price of admission. In addition, to Hank Jones there is Lee Pearson, drums, Raymond McMorrin, tenor, Roy Hargrove, trumpet, and new to me, David Wong on bass.

Out of the gate, with Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" or, the second cut, Horace Silvers "Opus De Funk", but throughout the disc, Pearson shows that he is a master drummer and is *well* recorded. Pearson is not quite the power hitter as Omar Hakim, the drummer in several other Eighty-Eight Hank Jones Great Jazz Trio SACD recordings, but he still can knock it out of the park when called upon and appears more versatile than Hakim, in my opinion, on this disc.

McMorrin, who is well known to a friend of mine and in some circles, but with whom I have only a passing familiarity, kicks plenty butt on tenor in Herbie Hancock's "Canteloupe Island". The ensemble literally rocks on this cut with Pearson's talents on full display. McMorrin also struts his stuff in Benny Goodman/Chick Webb's "Stompin' at the Savoy".

In both "Tunisia" and "Someone Watch Over Me" Roy Hargrove, whom I have seen a couple of times, is featured on trumpet. DSD recorded trumpet on SACD is probably a rare event, which is, still another reason why Roy Hargrove is so welcome on this disc. The recording quality of his solos is first rate. As it turns out the appearance of Hargrove on this SACD was the result of a stroke of good luck. By coincidence Hargrove was in residency at a club in Tokyo not far from the Sony Studio where this disc was to be recorded. With permission of Blue Note Hargrove was able to join in to our considerable benefit.

Sure, there may be other specific performance/arrangements of these jazz standards that one may prefer, but I doubt that one can find glaring fault with these performances. And the recording quality is top tier if not entirely faultless.

So, clearly with Jones, Hargrove, Pearson, and McMorrin, this SACD's got some headliners. But for me the real find was Wong on bass. This young lion has skills. On this album, Wong is thumpin', fingerin' or bowin' ("The Summer Knows") on all cuts. He makes the most of every opportunity presented his way. I looked him up on net and found that he has been touring with Hargrove (and I think Roy Haynes) in Europe but will be Chicago soon. (Could it be that he hooked up with Hargrove as a result of the "Last Recording" session in Tokyo)? There are several Wong videos on line

And what about Hank Jones? He was what he was, the undisputed Dean of Trio. Jones is *so* masterful with tempos. I'm not at all suggesting he was in peak form, but his playing is wonderfully full bodied with speed, dexterity and power. His left hand was in great form. His leadership is strong and experienced. And he was clearly the headman in charge during this set. "Last Recording" ends most fittingly, with a committed Jones solo of the "Very Thought of You".

Oh, did I mention that "Last Recording" is a two channel only release. I'm not happy that there is no multi-channel mix but it is an exceptional recording for sound and performance (as are several other Hank Jones Eighty-Eight SACDs that I own). I purchased this Eighty-Eight recording from Eastwind Import.

Robert C. Lang

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