Peter Jones – Under The Setting Sun
(Howlin Werewolf HW003. CD review by Mark McKergow)
London-based vocalist Peter Jones uses his third album to show his songwriting talents on this atmospheric and superbly-executed collection of late-night vibes and sentiments.
First of all, full disclosure: Peter Jones is a member of the London Jazz News reviewing team. His interest and passion for male vocals has been developing over several years, and he is currently at work on what promises to be the definitive biography of the late American singer Mark Murphy (This Is Hip: The Life Of Mark Murphy, due from Equinox Publishing in April 2018). Jones has also been developing his own vocal style, a rich baritone sound filled with jazz sensibility.
Jones has been extending his reach; his first album (One Way Ticket To Palookaville) consisted of standards with some added lyrics, his second (Utopia) featured some originals along with new words to jazz tunes. This time we are treated to a collection made up entirely of original compositions, based on recollections of times and places (real or imagined). Most of these are ballads, and the whole collections drips with the most attractive kind of late night vibe.
Once again, Jones has surrounded himself with first-class London jazz musicians, and the entire enterprise is brilliantly performed. Island Honey opens the album with didgeridoo-style droning in a tropical background, Jones conjuring up the heat and helplessness of walking along a beach with an attractive companion with whom he shares no verbal language. The floating flute of Vasilis Xenopoulos features in an extended solo, and Xenopoulos’ tenor sax is a key voice throughout the collection.
The music shows great variety, yet never at the expense of the atmosphere and feel. 1969 lollops along in a 5/4 glide with the vibes of Anthony Kerr shimmering around the pulse created by Andy Hamill’s double bass. Hamill also produces a beautiful harmonica solo on the closing song Reunion, full of regret and contemplation. Baby and Hog looks back to two historical characters, Baby Laurence and Ground Hog, who used to entertain the queues at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem to raise money for their drug habits. Jones puts this into 7/4, and effect, far from ungainly, moves engagingly and pulls us along in a haze of Rhodes piano and flute.
The keyboard duties are carried out with great aplomb by Neil Angilley, a musician of great flexibility with every solo different and scoring highly. Angilley, along with drummer Davide Giovannini, has appeared on all three of Jones’ albums to date. The effect is a real continuity of sound and style, and the production of this set is once again sharp and lively. Jones’ collected works are beginning to amount to quite a canon.
The standout song is Doggerland, named for a lost land bridge between Great Britain and the continent which disappeared beneath the North Sea at the end of the last Ice Age some 8500 years ago. Jones puts himself in the shoes of the last inhabitants being forced to leave, and nonetheless vowing to return one day. Of course, we know that they didn’t and couldn’t, but the sorrow and determination strike quite a chord with more recent developments and the impact is moving and thought-provoking as well as thoroughly musical, and the beautiful piano solo from Angilley is the icing on the cake. This ballad has the potential to become a standard of the future – come on someone, pick it up and perform it!
This album succeeds brilliantly in Jones’ stated ambition to create something that people might want to chill out to at 2am. The only downside to that is that, with only one up tempo track (the swinging If Not Now, When?), the relaxation on offer is so great that the listener might be at risk of drifting off into a dream-like reverie. However, the level of creativity and skill on offer makes this a valuable and important collection for anyone remotely interested in contemporary jazz singing and song writing.
The CD is launched with a gig at Jazz Cafe Posk, London on Saturday 26 August 2017.