Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Recorded shortly before the death of jazz pianist Jones in 2010, this is the second collection of eloquent gospel and folk music done with double-bassist Charlie Haden.  It's just the two of them, but with great beauty in the simplicity.  Almost all of these songs will be familiar to most people, even if you didn't grow up in the church.  The gentle care the duo takes with the material only hammers home the strength.

Many of the songs come from the hymnals.  Blessed Assurance, Give Me That Old Time Religion, The Old Rugged Cross and Nearer My God To Thee are as much pillars of American folk music as any murder ballad or old-timey mountain song.  There's a great argument to be made that this early gospel is the truest American music, predating jazz, country, bluegrass, whatever.  Its influence is still obvious all over genres today.  With two jazz giants devoting their attention to it, even wordlessly, the case is stronger.

Jones plays, Haden responds, or vice-versa.  There's no drama here, no out-there soloing or radical or even minor departures from the famous melodies.  Instead an intense calmness prevails, a richness that only serves the historic notes.  There are even some surprising choices, including two carols, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and It Came Upon The Midnight Clear, that help connect the dots over the years for this kind of praise music, with great messages.  This is a wonderful disc to go to at any time, to wash your troubles away.

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