Sean Jones playing at the Triple Door with the Roosevelt H.S. Jazz Band on the opening nght of the Earshot Jazz festival Oct 18th 2008.
Over the course of his first three albums for the Mack Avenue Records label, trumpeter Sean Jones has revealed himself as among the most immensely expressive, versatile and gifted players of his generation. With each new project, the Warren, Ohio native has peeled back another layer to show us a fresh peek at his soul. His 2004 solo debut, Eternal Journey (recorded when he was 25) introduced Sean as a deft expresser of modern bop for the 21st century via originals and standards in a quintet format. His sophomore effort, Gemini, found him deftly mixing soul and funk flourishes with bop, proving he was not adverse to more contemporary textures. His last album, Roots, reflects his love of the music of the church, which he grew up singing as a child.
Now with his fourth and equally impressive release Kaleidoscope, Sean Jones adds another hue to his ever-expanding musical palette – showcasing the voices and song selections of an amazing assemblage of five top-flight singers: Gretchen Parlato, Carolyn Perteete, Sachal Vasandani, J.D. Walter, and contemporary gospel powerhouse Kim Burrell. Most of them are unknown to the majority of listeners…but not for long if Sean can help it.
“The concept of this record basically happened during a break in the sessions for Roots,” Sean shares. “(Producer) Al Pryor said it would be cool if I recorded with some vocalists next time. I was open to that, but I didn’t want to do a typical vocal record. I didn’t want that soft, run-of-the-mill love song thing you hear on the radio. And I didn’t want to grab a bunch of stars just to sell records. I wanted to create a document celebrating the vocalists of my generation – a hard-hitting project that would allow me to superimpose my sound on top of their dynamic styles.”
The instantly striking aspect of this concept is the utter generosity and deference Jones gave to both his guest vocalists and band members. “This is a collaborative project,” he states. “I believe that there is power in numbers and power in a generation, not in individuals. When I look at jazz and music in general, combined forces are much more effective than one person trying to make their testament alone. True, I am soloing on every song and there is space for me to shine but, I was more concerned with celebrating these gifted composers and vocalists. I titled the album Kaleidoscope because these artists represent the colors of my generation. And I see myself as a thread among them.”
Kaleidoscope’s opening number, “Allison,” sets the stage for Jones’ arresting first vocal forays. The piece opens as a soft, floating instrumental gradually building in intensity then introduces J.D. Walter singing a soaring wordless vocal reminiscent of the work of the pan-cultural Pat Metheny Group. “That tune is a mood,” Sean says, “a bridge built to prepare listeners for what they’re about to hear – a fresh segue from everything I’ve already done.” Regarding the title, Sean adds, “Everyone in the studio knew an Allison so we called it ‘Allison’ – a universal thing.”
The final piece is a rolling and tumbling composition of vitality from the pen of Sean’s right hand – pianist Orrin Evans – titled “The Sluice” and featuring the explosive drumming of Obed Calvaire. “A Sluice is a pathway that brings the good water from one source to another,” Sean explains. “Orrin and I dedicate that song to Professor Ralph Bowen, through whom a continuum of nothing but the good stuff flows whenever he plays.”
The same can be said of Sean Jones, a player whose style reflects Clifford Brown for technical facility, Freddie Hubbard for flowing, lyrical lines, Woody Shaw for his intervalistic approach, and Miles Davis for leadership in forward thinking and contouring the music of the eras around his singular style. Indeed, it was after a teacher gave Sean – then a fifth grader – copies of Davis’ albums Kind of Blue (1959) and Tutu (1986) that he was hooked on trumpet immediately. Lessons learned under Professor Bill Fielder were of infinite guidance to young Sean as were high school studies with Esotto Pellegrini, which led to Sean earning an undergraduate degree in classical trumpet.
Notes on Sam and his album from Sean Jones’ website www.seanjonesmusic.com
Photograph by Seattle photographer and photojournalist Daniel Sheehan specializing in portrait photography for publications and corporations and photographers in Seattle with an unobtrusive, story-telling approach creating award winning bridal photography.