Thousand Small Things
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A Thousand Small Things showcases Rodney Jones' harmonically innovative and masterful guitar style on 11 tracks that journey through jazz, quiet storm, soul, groove, and blues.
* Rodney Jones is an incredibly versatile guitarist whose playing appeals to fans of George Benson, Barney Kessel, Wes Montgomery, Larry Carlton, and Herb Eillis.
* Has recorded and performed live with Maceo Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Pete Seeger, Lena Horne, James Brown, Chico Hamilton, Michael Jackson, and Jaki Byard. * Produced Lena Horne's Seasons of a Life for 0Blue Note Records.
* Instructor of jazz guitar at the Manhattan School of Music.
* Recorded best selling DVD Live at Smoke for Mel Bay Publications, Inc.
* Former guitarist for NBC on the Rosie O'Donnell Show.
"There are more than a few sophisticated jazz guitarists on the scene today. Only a handful of them, however, truly have the gift of groove. To put it another way, it is a special guitarist who can please bandleaders as varied as bebop godfather Dizzy Gillespie and funk kingpin Maceo Parker." -- Guitar Player
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Rodney's playing is impeccable, as always. He has prodigious technique that does not get in the way of the music. He respects tradition with a quote here or a tag there but then stretches out with a spirit of harmonic adventure. Moreover, it's clear that Rodney understands the importance of the Sound. Everything sounds right--the guitar, the other instruments, the interplay between the instruments. The Sound is the thing.
Three songs are "standards" and eight originals by Rodney. As usual, he has assembled a cast of outstanding musicians in a supporting role. Lonnie Plaxico on bass is a frequent collaborator with Rodney and it's easy to hear why. Michael Kanan has a fine touch on piano. I never know what to say about drummers except that the good ones keep good time and stand out by not sticking out. Carl Allen is a good one. I saved Donald Harrison for last since I've led a sheltered life and did not know his work before this album. You may get an idea of my opinion of his playing if you know that before the CD had finished playing for the first time, I had gone on line and ordered one of his CD's. I really enjoy his robust, textured sound on alto in contrast to the bright, laser-focused sax tone that has been in vogue in recent years.
Now to the music. To paraphrase something I heard B.B. King said in an interview, there are two kinds of blues. There's the "I need something blues" and there's the "I'm reaching out my hand to lift you up blues." B.B. plays the latter and so does Rodney. "Barney's Blues" is the most traditional blues on this record and Rodney brings tradition up to date with an assist from Donald Harrison.
Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments" is a favorite tune of mine and this version is stellar. There's a modal vibe here and Plaxico's bass recalls Paul Chambers. The voicing of the guitar and alto in stating the theme is spectacular. The whole ensemble shines here and, for me, this cut alone is reason enough to purchase the CD.
"Island Wind" is an original that should become a frequently covered tune. The haunting melody invites active listening and gives the musicians plenty of space for expression. "Morning's First Light" is a contemplative piece that suggests new beginnings. "The Lost Blues" lets Harrison stretch out at the beginning and Rodney wraps things up. "A Thousand Small Things" and "Grace" are two more contemplative pieces. These pieces are a new direction in Rodney's recorded work and they let us glimpse another musical dimension. As Rodney says in the notes, he is inviting the listener to see through his eyes and heart. It's a great view.
If nexus is a means of connection, "Blues Nexus" hooks us up with a great blues groove that, to me, gives a nod or two to Wes Montgomery. Coltrane's "Naima" was a surprise in that I was fully expecting to hear Harrison's alto play a big role but the solo guitar reading is haunting and beautiful. I've heard several versions of "Round Midnight" by Rodney and they're all good. This one stands out in that Rodney makes great use of what a clarinetist would call the chalumeau register--the lower range of the instrument where many guitarists don't feel quite as comfortable--to impart a warmth not often felt. At the risk of sounding corny, "My Mother's Smile" wraps things up in a ribbon of love. Thanks, Mrs. Jones.
I've found that Rodney's music improves with listening. That is, the more I hear it, the more there seems to be to hear. "A Thousand Small Things" is no exception. Often, on records I like a lot, there is a track or two that just doesn't grab me and I tend to hit the skip button to get to the next song. I haven't found any of those here. Would I buy this if I didn't know Rodney? In a New York minute.