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Highly accomplished modern jazz drummer, Willie Jones III, leads an all-star group on Groundwork, his latest album. Jones, who 'never fails to assemble a strong crew' (NY Times) convenes living legends Buster Williams (bass) and Eddie Henderson (trumpet), jazz virtuoso Eric Reed (piano) and rising stars Warren Wolf (vibes) and Stacy Dillard (saxophones). Willie Jones III explores the soulful side of jazz, performing tunes by his former employer and great influence Cedar Walton, and debuting new arrangements of tunes by Eric Reed, Buster Williams and more. Groundwork key tracks include the title tune and 'Hindsight,' both by Cedar Walton. Eric Reed's 'New Boundary' is a tribute to modern jazz musician Dwayne Burno; the song title is an anagram of the late great bassist's name. Throughout his career, Willie Jones III has lent his supple rhythm and buoyant spirit to artists like Cedar Walton, Milt Jackson, Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins and Roy Hargrove. Today, he continues to become one of jazz music's most sought out bandleaders.
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On his sixth album, Jones' talented group includes Buster Williams on double bass, Dr. Eddie Henderson on trumpet, Eric Scott Reed on piano, Warren Wolf on vibes, Stacy Dillard on saxophones, and Steve Davis on trombone. Jones dedicates the album to four late, great jazz musicians who have musically influenced his career: piano legends Cedar Walton and Mulgrew Miller, hard-swinging drummer Ralph Penland and marvelous bassist Dwayne Burno.
Reed's uptempo "Gitcha' Shout On" and Walton's "Groundwork", rendered as a jazz waltz, are attractive themes that are great springboards for the 'vibes with rhythm section' quartet featuring Wolf's blazing vibes solos and sizzling Reed piano solos, pushed along by Williams and highly-inventive drummer Jones. Cedar Walton's lovely minor theme "Hindsight" gets a jewel of a performance from the full sextet, featuring excellent solos by Reed, Henderson, trombonist Davis, and the renowned bassist Williams. Bassist Williams' own composition "Toku Do" begins with his hip, scintillating extended intro leading to the sextet's theme statement and solos by Wolf, Davis, Reed, and a very musical drum solo by drummer Jones. The 'tenor sax with rhythm section' quartet lineup gives excellent performances of Floriaan Wempe's blues ballad "Dear Blue" getting two lovely, heartfelt solos each from sax man Dillard and pianist Reed, both here and on Sherman Irby's swinging "Charity" with its great refain. As a sextet, the group plays Ralph Penland's lovely "Jamar" over a latin rhythm with excellent solos from Henderson who inserts a "You've Changed" quote, Scott, Wolf, and Dillard. Throughout the recording, Eric Scott Reed's protean pianism is a great asset, as is the driving, tasteful drumming of leader Willie Jones III and master bassist Buster Williams. Highly Recommended. Five SWINGING Stars! (Wj3 records. 8 tracks. Time-42:39.)