"Dave Jones on piano I think is, a terrific player, and he's clearly studied Herbie Hancock, and it only made me miss the piano more in Bastian Stein's album that Dave Jones welds things together here, so that at times, it sounds like Cardiff's answer to The Jazz Messengers."
BBC Radio 3's 'Jazz Now'
Ian Mann, www.thejazzmann.com, December 2014
I've been a long term admirer of the playing and composing of Port Talbot based Dave Jones.
He first came to my attention with the release of "Impetus", a highly accomplished trio recording which paired him with the rhythm team of brothers Chris O'Connor (bass) and Mark O'Connor (drums).
Comprised entirely of originals the album served notice that Jones is a highly talented writer as well as a fine player and his next album "Journeys" found him expanding his instrumental palette with guest horn players Lee Goodall (reeds), Tomos Williams (trumpet) and Gareth Roberts (trombone) augmenting a new core trio featuring the young rhythm team of Ashley John Long (double bass) and Lloyd Haines (drums). The album also featured contributions by the Mavron String Quartet led by violinist Christiana Mavron.
"Resonance" (2012) saw Goodall joining Long and Haines to form a core quartet with Williams, Roberts and the Mavrons all contributing again alongside another guest in the shape of trumpeter Gethin Liddington. All three albums revealed Jones to be a writer of memorable, melodic and swinging themes, rooted in the jazz tradition, particularly the classic "Blue Note" sound, but with an agreeably contemporary edge. All were recorded to the highest technical standards by Goodall at his Oakfield Studios near Newport, Gwent. Such was the quality of these albums that they were picked up on by the London jazz media with positive reviews coming from Chris Parker and the late Jack Massarik among others.
"Resonance" also features guest appearances on some tracks by Irish drummer, composer and educator Kevin Lawlor, the Curator of Jazz at Wexford Arts Centre. Jones and Lawlor have collaborated frequently in recent years and Jones appears on Lawlor's 2013 album "Exodus".
Jones' current quartet comprises of Goodall, Long and Lawlor and this line up has toured in both Wales and Ireland. In March 2014 a recording was made of the group's performance at the Acoustic Meeting Ground (AMG) venue in Pontardawe. Initially this was only intended as a test recording for a new mixing desk but the group were so excited by the quality of their performances that it was decided to release the recordings as an official album, "Live at AMG 2014". The material is sourced from the "Journeys" and "Resonance" albums with Jones describing the live versions of the tunes as being "longer, more improvised and more urgent" than the original studio recordings, some of which also included additional strings and brass.
Tonight's performance by the quartet of Jones, Goodall, Long and Lawlor at Dempsey's represented the official album launch of "Live at AMG". Jones was kind enough to send me a copy of the album and I was therefore keen to offer my support to this event and also to hear him play his own material live on a "proper" acoustic grand piano for the first time. Whenever I'd seen him before at the Queens Head in Monmouth or the much missed Jazz In The Park festival in Torfaen he'd been forced to play a cruddy little electric and of course he sounded absolutely great at Dempsey's. I did see him playing a grand piano at the 2014 Brecon Jazz Festival as part of the group Burum, a performance that I very much enjoyed, but seeing him performing his own tunes on a quality acoustic instrument was something special, particularly after waiting for so long to see it
On a filthy night in Cardiff with gale force winds and lashing rain the turnout at Dempsey's was pleasingly substantial as the jazz fans of South Wales, supplemented as ever by some of the students from the nearby RWCMD, turned out to support their local heroes. According to Dave the band's journey on the M4 wasn't a lot of fun either but once the music started the weather was forgotten as the quartet again turned in the kind of inspired performance that had prompted the release of the live CD.
The Cardiff performance began with "The Metro" , introduced by Long whose bass figure proved to be the fulcrum for the piece as Goodall sketched the folk tinged melody on his distinctive curved soprano sax. Goodall took the first solo followed by Jones who clearly relished the opportunity to stretch out on the Dempsey's piano. The instrument really is a prize asset, not many provincial jazz clubs have access to a grand piano but Dempsey's has one resident on the premises which is carefully stored away when the venue transforms itself into a rock venue at weekends. It's been played by many fine pianists from all corners of the globe in recent years and always sounds terrific.
Long took the first of several excellent solos on double bass and the piece as a whole was propelled by Lawlor's neat, crisp drumming. From the album "Resonance" the piece was inspired by the name of an Arts Centre in Abertillery.
Written as far back as 2004 "Welsh Rarebit" is obviously one of Jones' favourite compositions and versions have appeared on both the "Impetus" and "Resonance" studio albums plus the new live recording which Jones described as "our accidental live album". In my review of "Resonance" I spoke of this piece "bringing something of the Blue Note sound to South Wales" and that was exactly what we heard tonight with Goodall again leading off the solos on soprano followed by an expansive Jones solo again propelled by Lawlor's crisp, no frills drumming. Long has developed into the kind of musician who makes bass solos interesting, he is a supremely imaginative player and a phenomenal technician. The previous week I'd seen him at the Queens Head in Monmouth as part of the Coltrane Dedication band co-led by saxophonists Lyndon Owen and Caractacus Downs. He turned in some brilliant solos then and did so again now combining boundless imagination with jaw dropping technical skill.
Also from "Resonance" the tune "Wexford Time" was inspired by Jones' musical partnership with Lawlor, "we met on the internet!" the pianist wryly informed us. The tune was a celebration of this creative Celtic alliance with Goodall stating the theme on soprano before embarking on a series of vivid variations. Jones' piano solo was positively jaunty, an affirmation of the unifying power of music.
"Three on Four" first appeared on the trio album "Impetus". The current arrangement saw the piece opening with a delightful duet for piano and bowed bass. I've always loved Long's arco playing and this captured the beautiful and lyrical side of his work with the bow. With the addition of Lawlor's drums the piece moved into more conventional piano trio territory and for a moment I thought Goodall was going to sit this number out altogether but he eventually joined in on soprano, sharing the soloing duties with Jones and Long.
The first set ended with "Creative Petrol" , Jones' nod to the inspirations behind the compositional process. Here Goodall took up the tenor for the first time on a piece whose head seemed to tip its hat in the direction of Miles Davis' classic "So What" from "Kind Of Blue". Meanwhile Jones' tumbling, highly percussive piano solo suggested the influence of Thelonious Monk. I've been an admirer of Goodall's playing since I first heard him at Brecon Jazz Festival in the late 1980s. A supremely versatile musician he plays tenor, alto and soprano saxophones plus flute, guitar and drums. He dug in on his tenor solo and was followed by Long at the bass and Lawlor with a series of drum breaks as he traded choruses with both Goodall and Jones with Long's bass filling the anchor role. A good way to end a first half that featured exceptional playing from all four musicians.
Set two commenced with "5 to 3 on Friday", originally written for "Resonance" and also the opening track on the new live album. Another tune with a "Blue Note" style hook this featured Goodall on soprano rather than the tenor he deploys on the recordings. It was equally effective though as he shared the soloing responsibilities with the excellent Long at the bass.
"Funky Thing" appears on both "Journeys" and the live album and in Jones' words "does what it says on the tin". This marked the first outing for Goodall on alto, his keening tone underpinned by a deliciously tight bass and drum groove supported by Jones' equally funky left hand patterns. Goodall's solo saw him taking flight above a backdrop of drums only as Jones and Long took a well earned rest. As well as admiring Goodall's playing it also provided an opportunity for a fuller appreciation of Lawlor's percussive skills. Jones' funky and percussive piano solo maintained the energy levels and Long weighed in with some admirably muscular bass.
"Journeys" began with a passage of solo piano before Long came in to state the melody and to solo on beautifully modulated arco bass. Alastair McMurchie of Dempsey's later informed me that Long is a classically trained double bassist who specialises in baroque music and is also in huge demand in the classical sphere. No wonder he's so bloody good with the bow! Jazz represents a welcome change of scene for him and he's also an excellent free jazz bassist who is more than capable of deploying extended techniques. Some of these crept in to his Coltrane Dedication performance where I remember one of his arco solos as being particularly stunning. "Journeys" also featured lengthy passages in piano trio mode plus a closing solo from Goodall on soprano but this was essentially a feature for the group's remarkable bassist.
To round things off the quartet performed the only standard of the night, a quirky samba style take on "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise" with solos from Jones on piano and Goodall on alto sax plus Long with some prodigiously agile bass plucking. Following a brief re-statement of the theme by Goodall the piece closed with a final drum feature from the highly competent Lawlor.
There's something of a tendency for the London based jazz media to look down on "regional jazz musicians". However any of these four would be in great demand if they were to move to the capital and, indeed, Jones did spend some time in the South East in the 1990s before moving back to Wales. Goodall has worked as a sideman with artists as diverse as Van Morrison and Keith Tippett and Long plays in a variety of orchestras and chamber ensembles in addition to his numerous jazz commitments. All four have valid reasons for remaining in Wales or Ireland but this in no way undermines their status as first class musicians, and in Jones they have a top class composer too.
Make no mistake this is an excellent band and tonight's performance represented them at the top of their game. They were well received by a knowledgeable Dempsey's crowd that included Burum trumpeter Tomos Williams.
All of Jones' recordings are highly recommended and "Live At AMG 2014" is a worthy addition to a very strong catalogue.
Click here to read a profile of Dave in the Jazz Journal November 2012
Trevor Hodgett, 'R2' magazine Sept/Oct 2012
"Resonance, his fourth album, features Welsh jazz pianist Dave Jones on a programme of thematically strong original compositions that are expertly played by core accompanists, Lee Goodall (saxes, flute), Ashley John Long (bass) and, variously, Lloyd Haines and Kevin Lawlor (drums), and assorted distinguished guests.
Jones is a gifted melodist. The sturdy melody of 'Afro Celtic' and the lovely, effervescent melody of 'Wexford Tune', for example, sound somewhat like traditional folk tunes, and the melody of 'The Metro' is positively entrancing. The musicianship also delights. On 'Welsh Rarebit' Tomos Williams's melancholy trumpet is beautiful and the track also features marvously swinging piano from Jones himself, while Goodall's eloquent flute adorns 'Pushkin's Lament', a tenderly played, lyrical ballad.
The Mavron Quartet, a classical string quartet are used to subtle effect on several tracks, their re-entry towards the end of 'The Metro' being utterly disarming. The final track, 'Ubermog', is weirdly anomalous, but refreshingly so, with the quartet sounding like a totally different band, but this is in rock or even prog-rock territory with Jones pumping out funky Hammond licks and Goodall - otherwise a saxophonist and flautist - rocking out on heavily distorted electric guitar."
Duncan Heining, Jazz UK Aug/Sept 2012
Dave Jones' Quartet's 'Resonance' reveals musical growth, with several cuts utilising the Mavron String Quartet to first-rate effect and Jones' use of an expanded front line, for example on 'Pushkin's Lament', showing some real skill. Jones is developing into a very interesting composer.
…the Dave Jones Quartet has been pushing musical boundaries with its amalgamation of various musical styles to create a unique jazz hybrid.
Chris Parker, London Jazz blogspot 26/07/2012
"His 'Journeys' trio now augmented by multi-instrumentalist Lee Goodall, Dave Jones has produced a characteristically attractive, wholly accessible album in Resonance, the music on it, as is usual with the Port Talbot pianist/composer, made up of relatively straightforward, often riff-based original material, played with panache and pep by a band completed by regulars Ashley John Long (bass) and Lloyd Haines (drums), the latter replaced on three tracks by Kevin Lawler.
The strings of the Mavron Quartet and – on other pieces – a brass section join Jones's quartet on three tracks each, and bring welcome textural variety to the mix, but the album's immediacy and power are derived from the uncomplicated directness of the compositions, which call to mind both Spirit Level in their heyday and (occasionally) McCoy Tyner's immediately post-Coltrane output.
Goodall fires off cogent solos on both soprano and tenor, and his one-track contributions on flute and guitar are also telling, the latter in particular bringing the album to a rousing climax by perfectly complementing Jones's feisty Hammond organ. Jones communicates most effectively in live performances, but this unpretentiously enjoyable album is the next best thing".
Robert Shore's review of ‘Resonance’
in Jazzwise magazine August 2012
There's no lack of ambition about this set from Port Talbot's Dave Jones, who arranges six of the seven tracks for quartet plus horns or string quartet. As a result there's plenty of texture and breadth in the realisation of Jones's soulful writing. As a pianist, he swings with the panache of McCoy Tyner on the likes of 'Welsh Rarebit', but allows space for equally characterful contributions from trumpet, trombone and flugelhorn on the same tune and 'Pushkin's Lament'. 'Afro Celtic' points simultaneously in the different musical directions signalled by the title, with the strings dancing a jig through the tune and regular saxophonist Goodall switching to flute to plump up the folk factor. The closing number, 'Ubermog', is the only unsupplemented-quartet tune on the disc, with Goodall switching to guitar and Jones to Hammond organ, and finds the core quartet suddenly launching into funky electric jazz-rock territory. Expect the unexpected and you 'll find much to enjoy here.
Ian Mann's review of ‘Resonance’
at www.thejazzmann.com 30/06/2012
Based in Port Talbot the Welsh pianist and composer Dave Jones has received considerable praise from the London jazz press cognoscenti, notably Chris Parker, for his excellent albums “Impetus” (2009) and Journeys (2010). The first of these was an accomplished piano trio date recorded with brothers Chris O’ Connor (bass) and Mark O’ Connor (drums). The album demonstrated that Jones was not only a talented pianist but also a first rate composer capable of coming up with inventive and memorable themes.
“Journeys” was a more ambitious project that featured a core trio of bassist Ashley John Long and drummer Lloyd Haines with some tracks given extra colour by horn players Gareth Roberts (trombone), Tomos Williams (trumpet) and Lee Goodall (reeds) . The recording also included tasteful string arrangements featuring The Mavron String Quartet. Jones’ compositions were richly textured, melodic and swinging, often highly descriptive and with a great sense of place with the composer taking inspiration from his travels to the USA and elsewhere.
“Resonance” builds on the success of the acclaimed “Journeys” and features a very similar line up with Long and Haines joined full time by Goodall to form a core quartet. Roberts, Williams and the Mavrons also return and there is an additional instrumental voice in the form of trumpet/flugel player Gethin Liddington who doubles up with Williams on a couple of the selections. On three tracks Haines is replaced by Irish drummer Kevin Lawlor, these pieces being the result of a collaboration between Jones and Lawlor that toured the Arts Centre circuit in Ireland in April 2011. There were also a couple of club dates in Wales too.
Although self released Jones’ albums are recorded to a high professional standard at Goodall’s Oakfield studio near Newport with Jones and Goodall acting as co-producers. The packaging is also similarly classy .
The new album kicks off with “The Metro” in an arrangement that includes Goodall on sax and the strings of the Mavron Quartet (Christiana Mavron-violin, Katy Rowe-violin, Niamh Ferris-viola and Lucy Simmonds-cello). The piece begins with the sound of pizzicato strings subsequently joined by piano, bass and drums before Goodall picks out the appealing folk like melody on soprano saxophone as the Mavrons reach for their bows. Goodall’s later solo sees him probing further into the harmonies of the piece. Jones own solo is flowing and lyrical with Long’s resonant bass and Haines’ crisply brushed drums constituting appropriately sympathetic accompaniment. The piece ends with a restatement of the theme with Goodall and the strings again assuming prominence. It’s a beguiling start to the album and a good demonstration of Jones’ superior arranging skills. The Mavrons sound like an essential component of the music rather than just being “bolted on”, something that often occurs when jazz musicians collaborate with classical players.
“Welsh Rarebit” was composed as far back as 2004 and later appeared in trio form on the “Impetus” album. The new arrangement features the horn section of Roberts, Williams and Liddington, indeed the latter played on the tune in its earliest incarnations. The three brass players are among Wales’ leading exponents on their respective instruments and they add depth and colour to Jones’ tune with Goodall taking the first solo on tenor sax, followed by Jones, here swinging more forcefully at the piano. There’s a trumpet solo but I’m not going stick my neck out with regard to who it’s actually by! In any event the tune is a winner, bringing something of the Blue Note sound to South Wales.
“Afro Celtic” sounds nothing like Afro Celt Sound System but does team folk melodies with African style rhythms. Goodall appears on flute and the Mavrons are at their most folky. Jones takes the first solo followed by Goodall on flute. There’s a simple joyousness about this piece that instantly charms the listener. Oh yes, and Long’s opening bass riff is naggingly familiar.
“5 to 3 on Friday” was written specifically for the project with Lawlor, who takes over the drum stool here. The tune has an airy warmth expressed by Goodall’s lush,fruity tenor sax and the cushioning strings of the Mavron Quartet. Long impresses with the depth and richness of his tone on a rare bass solo and Lawlor’s subtly brushed drumming is full of delightful small details.
Lawlor remains in situ for “Wexford Time”, the second tune written for the Cymric/Irish collaboration. The arrangement brings back the horns and the folk tinged melody acts as the basis for pithy solos from Roberts on trombone, Williams on trumpet and Goodall on soprano. There’s also some accomplished ensemble playing in yet another fine example of Jones’ arranging abilities.
Jones dedicates the last two pieces on the record to “the memory of an irreplaceable old friend”, which I suspect is probably feline. The first of these, Pushkin’s Lament” is a languid ballad performance highlighting the velvet tones of Liddington on flugel horn. Roberts and Williams add an extra warmth to the ensemble sound and Haines returns to the drum stool. Solos come from Liddington, Goodall on smoky tenor and Long, dexterous and expressive on the bass.
The final item, “Ubermog”, is very different to the rest of the album, a high octane funk/rock workout which sees Jones switching to Hammond organ and multi instrumentalist Goodall to guitar as Lawlor reclaims the drum chair. It’s hugely enjoyable with Jones relishing the chance to rock out at the Hammond as Goodall produces some wonderfully dirty and fuzzed up sounds on guitar and Long wigs out on similarly weird and unhinged arco bass, the whole thing powered by Lawlor’s crisp drumming. There’s a prog rock/jam band feel to the piece that certainly appeals to me and although it’s all rather at odds to the rest of the music scheduling it last so as not to interrupt the mood and flow of the rest of the album is absolutely right. It’s actually rather splendid, maybe Jones should consider a whole album in this vein.
It had been my intention to check out Jones’s septet (the core quartet plus Roberts, Williams and cellist Lucy Simmonds) playing this music at Cardiff’s Café Jazz on 29th June 2012. However the flash flooding that hit the Midlands earlier in the day discouraged us from travelling. Having been caught up in the floods in the morning we didn’t fancy a repeat performance and decided that discretion was the better part of valour. Apologies to Dave for not making it, I seem fated to miss out on ever seeing him displaying his skills on a proper grand piano.
In the meantime there’s always this album to enjoy, a carefully crafted recording that features Jones’ melodic, intelligent writing and arrangements plus some excellent playing from all the members of the ensemble. It’s a worthy addition to an increasingly impressive catalogue and, like its predecessors, deserves to be widely appreciated by the national jazz audience.
Jack Massarik’s ‘jazz cd of the week’ review of ‘Journeys’
in the London Evening Standard 13/08/2010
“Though ordinary by name, Port Talbot's Dave Jones is an extraordinary pianist. He swings with a warmth, grace and vitality that recalls Horace Silver and McCoy Tyner. He also writes soulful originals and scores them skilfully for horns (Lee Goodall's tenor-sax being a notable bonus) and occasional strings. It's not surprising that guitarist Jim Mullen and flugel-hornist Nick Hill figured in his London phase years ago. He's now 46 and the promise of his 1995 debut album, Have You Met Mr Jones, is richly fulfilled by this mature release, available from jazzcds.co.uk. Jones the Piano definitely merits wider attention”.
Chris Parker’s review of ‘Journeys’
on The Vortex website 29/09/2010
“Inspired by a visit to Washington to perform at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, compositions such as the self-explanatory 'Hey DC' (an upbeat, celebratory, gospelly tune) and 'Funky Thing' (on which saxophonist Lee Goodall makes one of his four contributions) emulate the trio's previous album, Impetus, courtesy of their instantly memorable, punchy accessibility (Tim Richards's Spirit Level cover similar musical territory), but with the addition of trumpeter Tomos Williams and trombonist Gareth Williams on a couple of tracks and strings (the Mavron Quartet) on the album's title-track, the band's sound palette has been considerably extended.
To the relatively straightforward vigorous assurance and tasteful funkiness of previous outings, an ability to handle various textures and moods has been added, most tellingly on the lyrical, elegant 'Journeys', which draws an almost rhapsodic solo from its composer, skilfully set against a basic but effective string arrangement. Lively, powerful but polished music from an inventive composer/leader fronting a robust, musicianly band”
Phil Johnson’s review of ‘Impetus’
in The Independent on Sunday 25/01/2009
“The great piano trio resurgence continues in soul-jazz and lyrical soft-bop from south Wales” On the marvellously catchy opener, "The Leopard", Jones' piano style recalls Ramsey Lewis for easy sparkle and lilt, and Herbie Hancock for chordal invention. But over the length of the album, it's his skills as a writer rather than generic acuity that impress the most, along with the excellent contributions of twins Chris (double bass) and Marc (drums) O'Connor” (Phil Johnson, The Independent on Sunday 25/01/2009).
Chris Parker’s review of ‘Impetus’
on The Vortex website 12/12/2008
Pianist Dave Jones's debut album, Have you met Mr.Jones? (Parrot, 1996) covered work by such composers as Herbie Hancock, Horace Silver, Joe Henderson, and Hank Mobley, plus the odd standard and one original; this unlike its predecessor an all-acoustic-affair and with every track written by Jones himself except 'Postscript', a reprise of the aforementioned original from HYMMJ? 'Impetus' nevertheless covers similar stylistic ground: polished, lively post-bop with attractive, airy (even hummable), tunes.
Energetically but tastefully supported by the brothers O'Connor (bassist Chris and drummer Marc), Jones is a vigorous but elegant pianist, never flashy or glib, but none the less fluent and inventive for that; his ballads are suitably lyrical, his tone glowing and burnished, and his more up-tempo material draws suitably powerful solos from him. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable album from a sensitive but vibrant band.
Chris Parker’s Live Review
at The Vortex, London 20/07/2009
“If dynamic variation and subtle felicities of touch and texture are the primary qualities conjured up by 'piano trio', the Dave Jones Trio (leader/composer on piano, bassist Ashley John-Long, drummer Lloyd Haines), launching their CD Impetus (see CD Reviews), fit that definition. Their material (all by Jones, except the tumultuous closer, Wayne Shorter's 'Black Nile', from 1964's Night Dreamer) ranged easily between the tastefully funky ('The Leopard'), the intensely melodic ('Stimulus') and the immediately memorable ('Welsh Rarebit'), but whatever they played, the trio addressed it in a thoroughly musicianly, considered manner, Jones displaying all the qualities that led to fellow pianist John Pearce commenting, on Jones's debut album, Have You Met Mr. Jones? (Parrot, 1996), '[He] has a fine technique, rhythmic assurance and a straight-ahead style which makes him a very accomplished pianist indeed.' Amen to that”.