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The Hank Jones Trio (1955/56)

Savoy's "house rhythm section" of the mid-fifties

"Long regarded as one of the jazz world's most unsung heroes, Hank Jones's tasty fireworks and subtle improvisation finally started getting the recognition they deserved in the mid-fifties. In fact, from 1953 practically every album released by Savoy in that era included Hank Jones on piano. Less than two years later he joined forces with the dependable bassist Wendell Marshall and the always-swinging drummer Kenny Clarke and found his ideal trio. As he put it, a good rhythm section must have the ability to think together as a unit, to all have the same type of drive. After they had worked as a unit on several recording dates for Savoy, critics and jazz fans acclaimed THE TRIO (as they were called) as [one of] the most outstanding rhythm sections of their time." - Jordi Pujol, Fresh Sound Records


"I thought that time in the fifties when myself, Wendell Marshall and Kenny Clarke were the house rhythm section for the Savoy label was a very productive period. You certainly had a lot of freedom, solo–wise. We made records with Frank Wess, Frank Foster, Milt Jackson, Cannonball and Nat Adderley. Ozzie Cadena was the producer of many of those dates: he was a real jazz fan. In fact, he used to write some of the liner notes on the album covers. So we had a lot of fun there." - Hank Jones (interviewed 1974, National Jazz Archive UK)


This "house rhythm section" performed on over twenty record dates for Savoy, mainly during 1955, with bassists Eddie Jones or Paul Chambers replacing Marshall on some sessions. This entry highlights the four albums from this period featuring Hank Jones as leader, as well as two notable recordings the trio made with Ernie Wilkins (Top Brass, octet with five trumpets) and trumpeter Joe Wilder (Wilder 'n' Wilder), a follow-up to Wilder's guest slot with the trio on its Bluebird album.


LISTEN: FULL ALBUMS PLAYLIST (YouTube)

The Trio (The Jazz Trio Of Hank Jones)

Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, August 4, 1955

Hank Jones, piano; Wendell Marshall, bass; Kenny Clarke, drums.

Tracks: We're All Together, Odd Number, When Hearts Are Young, There's A Small Hotel, Cyrano, Now's The Time, My Funny Valentine, We Could Make Such Beautiful Music Together

"This is a superb Hank Jones date; highly recommended for fans of piano trio music. In 1955, most jazz pianists were immersed in the school of Bud Powell. Jones is unique in that he developed his harmonic concept prior to Powell's ascendancy and the bebop revolution, but went on to fully assimilate the melodic vocabulary of bop. He has synthesized important elements from many great players into his own recognizable style. His versatility is evident on these eight selections. Jones plays swinging bop lines on his original We're All Together and his blues head, Odd Number, displays the Powell influence most clearly. Upon hearing the delicate touch and harmonic subtlety with which Jones plays ballads -- including We Could Make Such Beautiful Music Together, Cyrano, There's a Small Hotel, and My Funny Valentine -- one can imagine that a young Bill Evans was quite familiar with this recording. Jones's mastery of block chords is particularly impressive. Occasionally reissued under drummer Kenny Clarke's name, this important Savoy session also includes bassist Wendell Marshall, who had spent the previous seven years with Duke Ellington's band." - Lee Bloom, AllMusic

"Hank Jones’s The Trio is one of the to-go-to albums as far as piano trio jazz from the 50s is concerned. The first major step of Jones as a piano trio player started, recording-wise, with The Trio in 1955. Jones is assisted by bassist Wendell Marshall and drummer Kenny Clarke, who is responsible for making it, in the words of Dutch master drummer Eric Ineke, ‘one of the greatest brush records ever.’ The Trio is a record of sublime interaction and solo spots are not reserved strictly to the leader. There is a lot of room for Marshall and Clarke, whose precision and drive with the brushes as an accompanist are remarkable. His solo’s are textbook examples of meaningful simplicity. Jones shares with the giants of jazz piano – Teddy Wilson, Earl Hines, Nat Cole – a synchronicity of harmony and melody that is impeccable, to the point where one begins to feel weightless, drifting within a cloud dreamily and fulfilled. Among other things, Jones is elegant and an expert of the arc, essential feat for meaningful storytelling. These qualities run through the bebop of We’re All Together, Charlie Parker’s blues Now The Time and the jaunty Cyrano, credited, very likely unjustly, to producer Ozzie Cadena. They pervade the wonderful ballads We Could Make So Much Good Music Together and My Funny Valentine, the latter a cushion-soft gem. You gotta love Odd Number, which unusual meter and playful melody make your ears perk up, an element that is reminiscent of some of Horace Silver’s refreshing and smart early career tunes, like Horace-Scope. Hank Jones was no ‘odd number’, but graceful and composed to the core, and to the end." - François van de Linde, Flophouse Magazine, December 2020

Hank Jones Quartet-Quintet (with Donald Byrd)

Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, November 1, 1955

Hank Jones, piano; Eddie Jones, bass; Kenny Clarke, drums, with:

Donald Byrd, trumpet; Matty Dice, trumpet (#3,5).

Tracks: Summer's Gone, Don't Blame Me, An Evening At Papa Joe's, Almost Like Being In Love, And Then Some

"One of the finest talents in modern jazz, Hank Jones has long been recognised for his considerable contributions to the field. Here, he surrounded himself with some kindred spirits. On three tracks, he heads a quartet with Donald Byrd, Eddie Jones and Kenny Clarke. On another three, the then-new trumpeter Matty Dice was added to the combo. The rhythm section is excellent all the way, with Jones, as usual, unhurried and thoroughly tasteful; on the ballads he evokes more reflective beauty of conception than almost any other of his contemporary pianists. Bassist Jones of the Basie band is also heard in a few full-toned solos, and Clarke holds a pulsating, steady line that could let a soloist walk on the water. Byrd is here at his best on all tracks; his tone, phrasing, and ideas are remarkable, and his performance on the two ballads is superb." - Jordi Pujol, Fresh Sound Records


"The early Savoys [...] represent an attractive investment in Jones's mid-1950s work. Quartet/Quintet is marginally ahead of the rest. Working without a saxophone and using the two trumpets (mostly in thirds on unison themes) gives the band a bright, hard-edged sound that is enhanced by a faithful, hiss-free reproduction. A hint of echo in the acoustic adds some depth to spacious, uncomplicated arrangements. The formula works best on the long An Evening at Papa Joe's, where the slow blues theme encourages Byrd to stretch out a bit, and introduces Dice for three good choruses. The young Newarkian has a slightly raucous tone that is an effective foil to Byrd's saxophone-influenced phrasing and roughens the ensemble textures." - Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD

Bluebird - The Hank Jones Trio With Guests

Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ

Hank Jones, piano; Kenny Clarke, drums; Wendell Marshall, bass (#2, 3, 4, 5, 6); Eddie Jones, bass (#1, 7), with:

>November 1, 1955, Donald Byrd, Matty Dice, trumpets (#1);

>November 3, 1955, Jerome Richardson, tenor sax (#2), flute (#4);

>November 29, 1955, Joe Wilder, trumpet (#5, 6);

>December 20, 1955, Herbie Mann, flute (#7).

Tracks: Hank's Pranks, Wine And Brandy, Little Girl Blue, Alpha, Wilder's Moon (aka How High The Moon), I Think Of You With Every Breath I Take, Bluebird

"These relaxed cool jazz performances feature pianist Hank Jones in a variety of settings. In addition to drummer Kenny Clarke and either Eddie Jones or Wendell Marshall on bass, "Hank's Pranks" has both Donald Byrd and Manny Dice on trumpets, trumpeter Joe Wilder and flutist Herbie Mann are on a song apiece and Jerome Richardson (doubling on flute and tenor) drops by for two. It's a tasteful set of melodic bop." - Scott Yanow, AllMusic

Ernie Wilkins Octet (Top Brass)

NYC, November 8, 1955

Hank Jones, piano; Wendell Marshall, bass; Kenny Clarke, drums, with:

Ray Copeland, trumpet #1-5,10; Idrees Sulieman, trumpet #1-5,7; Donald Byrd, trumpet #1-5,8; Ernie Royal, trumpet #1-5,9; Joe Wilder, trumpet #1-6; Ernie Wilkins, arranger, director.

Tracks: Top Brass, Trick Or Treat, 58 Market Street, Speedway, Dot's What, Willow Weep For Me, Imagination, It Might As Well Be Spring, The Nearness Of You, Taking A Chance On Love.

"Top Brass is a 1956 stellar (5-star in Down Beat) album in a modern and expanded reincarnation of many of the Keynote sessions in the 40s when a pride of several lions on one particular instrument was assembled to exchange ideas and styles. In this case, Savoy presented five trumpeters blowing score and solo in various Ernie Wilkins settings flawlessly backed by the famous trio made up by Hank Jones, Wendell Marshall, and Kenny Clarke." - Fresh Sound Records


"Although he was a better than average saxophonist with Count Basie, by the time of this 1950s session for Savoy, Ernie Wilkins was working exclusively as an arranger and composer. Four of the first five tracks are swinging originals by Wilkins, and there's also an obscure Johnny Mandel blues, "Dot's What." The remaining music is a ballad medley where each trumpeter is featured in turn playing a personal favourite, all of which have become time-tested standards. If there's any complaint about this studio date at all, it is the excess reverb used at times, which is surprising due to Rudy Van Gelder's usually impeccable sound. Because reissues of Savoy dates seem to surface and go out of print with blazing speed, fans of Ernie Wilkins are advised not to linger in purchasing this recommended CD." - Ken Dryden, AllMusic

Joe Wilder Quartet (Wilder 'N' Wilder)

Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, January 19, 1956

Joe Wilder, trumpet; Hank Jones, piano; Wendell Marshall, bass; Kenny Clarke, drums.

Tracks: Cherokee, My Heart Stood Still, Prelude To A Kiss, Six Bit Blues, Mad About The Boy, Darn That Dream

"A rare outing as a leader for this much-travelled sideman and studio player. Although he emerged at the time of bop - he was with Dizzy Gillespie in the Les Hite band - Joe was a sweeter, more temperate player. The title is a misnomer: there is nothing very wild about the playing here, although Six Bit Blues, a 3/4 walking blues, features some growl trumpet which the leader evidently enjoys. Cherokee is taken at a light medium tempo and strolls on for 10 minutes, while most of the rest stand as ballads. Wilder's broad tone and lightly shimmering vibrato are set against Jones's customarily civilized playing to maximum effect. The remastering is clear and well focused." - Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD


"This 1956 Savoy session finds Wilder in the sympathetic company of pianist Hank Jones, bassist Wendell Marshall, and drummer Kenny Clarke. While Wilder takes quality solos throughout, especially on the slower cuts, Jones matches him track for track with his own elegantly swinging and thoughtful statements. One of the best of the trumpeter's early dates." - Stephen Cook, AllMusic

Hank Jones Trio plus the Flute of Bobby Jaspar

Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, August 21, 1956

Hank Jones, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Kenny Clarke, drums; + Bobby Jaspar, flute.

Tracks: Moonlight Becomes You, Relaxin' At Camarillo, Minor Contention, Sunday In Savannah, Spontaneous Combustion

"Hank Jones has made many memorable albums over his long career, but this 1956 session with Belgian flutist Bobby Jaspar is one that could easily get overlooked. Jaspar's melodious flute adds some magic to an already memorable arrangement of Moonlight Becomes You. He also keeps up nicely with Jones in Charlie Parker's tricky blues line Relaxin' at Camarillo. Minor Conception is a slightly exotic number by Jones, while Cannonball Adderley's Spontaneous Combustion wraps up the session with a flourish. Jones delivers his usual superb performance, while Paul Chambers has several fine solos, and drummer Kenny Clarke propels the date with his crisp brushwork. At just over 36 minutes, this music is well-worth acquiring." - Ken Dryden, AllMusic