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Willie Jones III: Groundwork

Willie Jones III, drums, drumming, groundwork

The drum. It was the first instrument. The first to make music. The first to communicate a message or feeling from one to another. Drummer Willie Jones III shares an infectious array of rhythms every time he sits down to play - a strong desire to communicate messages and feelings to draw you in, to make you feel...SOMETHING.

His new recording, "Groundwork" is his sixth as leader. He brings to it experience gained with Milt Jackson, Arturo Sandoval, Bobby Hutcherson, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Horace Silver, Kurt Elling, Hank Jones, Wynton Marsalis and the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band. As a founding member of the group Black Note, Willie showed his all out allegiance to hard swinging gaits and subtleties that only come with time well spent.

With "Groundwork", Jones pays tribute to times well spent with pianists Cedar Walton and Mulgrew Miller, bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Ralph Penland, all who have passed in recent years, all who passed along friendship and musical wisdom to the drummer.

Jones, who "never fails to assemble a strong crew" (NY Times) brings together for this recording living legends Buster Williams on bass and trumpeter Eddie Henderson, outstanding pianist Eric Reed, vibes virtuoso Warren Wolf, sax specialist Stacy Dillard, and former jazz messenger, Steve Davis on trombone.

Right away you hear that this collective gets it. Eric Reed's "Git'cha Shout On" is an open road burner, with pianist and vibes speeding along with Jones' pacesetting groove.

Of Cedar Walton, Jones says, "As a leader I always celebrate his songbook." Walton's "Hindsight" has an always expressive Eddie Henderson trumpet and trombonist Steve Davis moving with Buster Williams' baselines and Wolf's vibe work.

The group's gorgeous side shines brightly on "Dear Blue" and Cedar's "Groundwork", beautifully arranged as a ballad by Reed.

Buster's "Toku Do" opens with some gratifying bass lines by the composer, an intro to a head bobber by the collective.

"Charity", written by saxophonist Sherman Irby, easily swings along, the leader's tasty brushwork inspiring some insightful piano lines from Reed, with Dillard's sax work on display.

Eric Reed wrote "New Boundary" especially for this date, and as a tribute to bassist Dwayne Burno. The song's title, an anagram of the late bassist's name, led Jones to comment, "I loved playing with Dwayne. He was a great friend and one of my favorite bass players who left us too early." The outstanding work by the group strengthens the salute.

Drummer Ralph Penland wrote "Jamar". The leader says, "Ralph mentored me in Los Angeles. In addition to being featured on over 100 recordings with Freddie Hubbard, Stan Getz and more, Ralph was a great composer."

With "Groundwork" you can hear that the musical influences for Willie Jones III run deep. The recording comes out February 19, with celebratory performances March 3 - 6 at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in New York.

One listen should have you in line for tickets.


Gary Walker / Morning Jazz

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