3’s A Crowd
Billy Jones’s new release is an exciting series of jazz duo’s. Each track places Billy’s expressive drumming in dialogue with a different instrumental voice. This dialogue elevated the drums from their traditional role of accompanist to explore their full musical potential.
- 3’s A Crowd (feat. George Young on alto saxophone)
- Song For Meg (feat. Tony Micelli on vibraphone)
- The Call (feat. John Vanore on trumpet)
- John Cage Scared My Dog (feat. Mick Rossi on piano)
- For John And Elvin (feat. Gary Meek on tenor saxophone)
- Just Above The Clouds (feat. Kenny Stahl on flute)
- Gone Now (feat. Tyrone Brown on bass)
- A Monotony Of Hazards (feat. Stu Reynolds on bass clarinet)
- Chant Of The Soul (feat. Scotty Wright on vocal)
- Ellie’s Dream (feat. George Genna on piano)
Here we have an album that is one of those incredibly rare things,
namely one which has been directed and driven by a drummer. In addition, it is also actually an album of duets – ten songs, ten musicians, but each musician is involved in only one number. Billy says in the booklet that he has been conceptualizing the album for years, placing “the drums in constant dialogue with one other instrumentalist” and being able to “raise the drums from its traditional role of accompaniment, to that of partner to that other voice”. Perhaps not unsurprisingly I found myself thinking of Bill Bruford while listening to this album, but it was more of the stories told within his memoirs than that of the music, of the travails and tribulations of the working jazz drummer.
Only one of the songs contains vocals, where “Chant of the Soul” contains a singer as the other musician (this is one of the numbers that are totally improvised, just four on the album in total). Some of the songs work better than others, and a great example is Mick Rossi and his piano on “John Cage Scared My Dog” where he is in perfect harmony as they experiment and follow each other. Another highlight is “Song For Meg” where Tony Micelli’s vibraphone hits all the right notes. In many ways quite a simple album, it is also complex, and is something that any jazz lover will get a great deal out of.
Duets come in various shapes and sizes.
Here are two unique ways that pairs can work.
Drummer Billy Jones teams up with various East and West Cast musicians ranging from voice to vibes for ten get togethers. Some are completely free improvisations such as Gary Meek’s tenor wresting math n “For John and Elvin” and the mystical flute from Kenny Stahl on “Just Above the Clouds” while Scotty Wright’s voice has a Kurt Elling twinge on the richly wordless “Chang of the Soul.” John Vanore’s trumpet sighs during the hip “The Call” and Jones’ brushes team well with pianist Mick Rossi’s ivory and string plucking during “Ellie’s Dream.” All throughout, Jones knows when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, featuring the taste of a master chef.