Bassist Jason Jenkins, on his previous recordings (The Closing Bell and Urban Vernacular) and in his gigs around Richmond , Virginia , has shown that he is one of the most important jazz musicians in Virginia . He has a large tone, a relaxed yet hard-swinging style, and the ability to play the perfect note at the perfect time. He is also an increasingly significant bandleader and composer.
The current Jason Jenkins Quartet also features the highly expressive and versatile tenor-saxophonist Kevin Simpson, pianist Anthony Dowd (whose chordal style is quite original) and the supportive drummer Keith Willingham. On Just Hearsay, they perform five jazz standards and two of Jenkins’ most rewarding originals.
The set begins with Thelonious Monk’s catchy “Green Chimneys.” The Quartet gives the infectious piece a spirited treatment with strong solos by Dowd, Simpson and the leader.
Jenkins’ original “Virginia Song” starts off as if will be a spiritual Coltrane-type song similar to “ India ,” with the bass in the lead. But it surprisingly morphs quickly into a joyful swinger with a particularly rewarding spot for Simpson’s tenor.
“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” Charles Mingus’ tribute to the great tenor Lester Young, has a guest vocal by Rudy Faulkner that is full of passion and heartfelt emotion.
“Dark Eyes” is a traditional Russian folk melody that has been recorded under several names by Americans. Among the most famous versions are ones by Art Tatum and the Gene Krupa Trio. This rendition has one of Kevin Simpson’s strongest solos of the CD and he really gets an opportunity to stretch out and come up with fresh ideas. The soulful chordal piano solo by Dowd is also a highlight.
“Lime,” another Jason Jenkins original, has a groove a little reminiscent of Ahmad Jamal’s “Poinciana.” Its melody is memorable and the chord changes inspire lyrical solos that perfectly fit the piece.
Just Hearsay concludes with two famous jazz standards. Billy Strayhorn’s “ Chelsea Bridge ” has an unaccompanied piano introduction that is almost classical in nature before the ballad showcases Simpson at his most melodic. Finally there is Dizzy Gillespie’s “Groovin’ High,” a good excuse for some joyful swing, solos for each musician, and a spirited tenor-piano tradeoff.
Obviously a lot of rewarding jazz is being played these days in Richmond , Virginia . Just Hearsay makes a strong sampling of the music available for the rest of us to enjoy.