One of the things I like about Sam Jones’s music is the intricate horn lines he wrote. Bittersuite is basically a blues but as you listen to the interaction between the horns you may not immediately recognize it as blues. In fact, the horn lines and bass interplay on OP, Del Sasser, Lillie, Some More of Dat, and Tragic Magic (by Kenny Barron) grab your attention as a listener. Unit 7 was used by Cannonball as an unofficial theme song. Anyone who wants to teach young jazz players how to swing or play with soul just needs to put on a recording of Cannonball and Nat playing this tune. Using riffs and lines from a swinging big band Sam’s writing gives each soloist a chance to blow. Benny and Antonio bring to mind Jimmy Heath and Cannonball on two of the memorable recordings of the song. All in all this recording is designed to take you on a musical journey. I don’t have to tell you everything about these tunes, these fine players do that. Enjoy.
When Kent approached me with the idea of doing a recording of the music of Sam Jones I had two thoughts. One was that if any bass player could do it justice it was Kent. Secondly, Sam Jones is an artist a lot of jazz fans know but don’t know. They know and love recordings he played on and his songs but they don’t necessarily recognize his name. Sam is a musician’s musician. Musicians dig and respect his work.
Sam Jones lived from November 12, 1924 until December 15, 1981. He is the cousin of bassist Al Hall. Sam moved to New York City and played with a Who’s Who of New York jazz musicians but his work with Cannonball and Nat Adderley got me addicted to his playing. Even though he worked with Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, and Cedar Walton for several years his earthy, powerful and soulful sound came from being in Cannonball’s band. Sam was influenced by some of the most influential bass players of the Twentieth Century—Jimmy Blanton, Ray Brown, Oscar Pettiford, Al Hall and Milt Hinton.
So in order to do an album dedicated to him and his music you must first have a killing rhythm section. First and foremost you have to have a solid bass player (Kent), and soulful piano player (Darius) and a swinging drummer (Greg). Kent has been my first call bassist for over ten years as a member of my quartet and quintet and Greg when his schedule permits is my drummer. Because Cannonball was a major influence on me I hear the Sam Jones style of playing in my ear, even though Kent brings a lot more to the table. Filling out this date are two saxophonists who adequately drive the rhythm section to bring this music to life (Benny Russell, tenor and Antonio Parker, alto).
–– Ron Kearns