Jazz CD Reviews

Oliver Jones – Live In Baden Switzerland – Justin Time

A festive caper by an under-appreciated Canadian pianist.

Published on March 13, 2012

Oliver Jones – Live In Baden Switzerland – Justin Time

Oliver Jones – Live In Baden Switzerland – Justin Time – Just 243-2, 71:53 ****:

(Oliver Jones – piano; Reggie Johnson – bass; Ed Thigpen – drums)

There has been a number of Canadians that have reached international recognition as jazz musicians such as Oscar Peterson, Diana Krall, Maynard Ferguson and Rob McConnell. However, there have also been others who were deserving of such accolades but it never came, including Ed Bickert – guitar, Peter Appleyard – vibes, Fraser McPherson – tenor sax, and last but not least, Oliver Jones.

Oliver Jones was born in the same Little Burgundy district of Montreal as Oscar Peterson and received some of his early musical training from Oscar Peterson’s sister Daisy. For many years he gigged around small clubs in Montreal and was closely associated with bassist Charlie Biddle and his jazz club called Biddles. In fact his very first recording in 1983 was Live At Biddles. This particular disc was originally recorded in 1990 in Baden, Switzerland and has just been released for the first time. The occasion was one of the earliest international forays for Jones and it turned out to be a festive one indeed.

Supported by two expatriate American musicians, bassist Reggie Johnson and that tasteful drummer Ed Thigpen, Jones uses the occasion to offer a program of jazz and pop standards along with several original compositions to showcase his innumerable talents. There is a colorfully swinging opener “Falling In Love With Love” which then segues into the lovely Johnny Mandel/Johnny Mercer ballad “Emily” on which Jones’ lighter touch is ably demonstrated. There is no question that Jones is from the Oscar Peterson School of pianistic technique which features a swinging two-handed style along with full keyboard runs done at a blistering pace, as evidenced by both “Up Jumped Spring” and the traditional hymn “Just A Closer Walk With Thee”. The George Gershwin medley is all Jones as both Johnson and Thigpen drop out and confirms that he can deliver interesting voicings and melodic interpretations without rhythmic support.

Jones proves that he is no slouch as a composer as he gives “Something For Chuck” a bluesy reading, and delivers “Snuggles” in rapid–fire fashion. The disc closes out with the Oscar Peterson homage on his composition “Hymn To Freedom” whereby the student shows that all the mentoring was worthwhile. If there is a criticism of Jones’ playing style is that he never met a note he didn’t like, and often plays ten notes when one will do.

This album has recently been nominated for Canada’s Juno Award as Best Traditional Jazz Album of the Year and rightly so.

TrackList: Falling In Love With Love; Emily; Blues For Helen; Up Jumped Spring; Just A Closer Walk With Thee; George Gershwin Medley: (Rhapsody In Blue; I Loves You Porgy; Bess You Is My Woman Now; It Ain’t Necessarily So; Summertime; The Man I Love; Embraceable You; I Got Rhythm); Something For Chuck; Round Midnight; Snuggles; Hymn To Freedom

—Pierre Giroux




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