Album Review

JASON JENKINS QUARTET 

            Bassist Jason Jenkins has been leading a quartet that has had a regular residency at the Barrel Thief Café in Richmond, Virginia for ten years. A world-class bassist and a talented composer, Jenkins has been a studio musician, worked on soundtracks, and been very active as both a leader and a sideman in Virginia. He has led at least seven CDs prior to the new one. 

            On this live recording from the Barrel Thief Café on Feb. 15, 2020 just before the world shut down, Jenkins is featured leading a group that also includes trumpeter Victor Haskins, guitarist Alan Parker and drummer Billy Williams. All three of Jenkins’ versatile sidemen are regularly quite busy with a countless number of musical associations in addition to being educators. 

            For this outing, the quartet performs a set of jazz standards, most of which are not played or recorded that often. The opener, organist Jack McDuff’s “Rock Candy,” immediately starts off the set by establishing a party atmosphere. The medium-tempo blues, which has a brief pause between the individual statements, features spirited trumpet, guitar and bass solos. Horace Silver’s “Sanctimonious Sam” is a jazz waltz with a tricky melody line. Haskins and Parker really stretch themselves during their adventurous solos.  Walter Booker’s “Book’s Bossa” has a sophisticated theme that is made accessible by the use of bossa-nova rhythms; it is highlighted by one of Haskins’ best solos of the set. 

            Haskins, Parker and Jenkins have opportunities to solo on every tune while Williams is involved in an occasional tradeoff and keeps the momentum flowing throughout with his supportive and swinging drumming. Sonny Clark’s “Melody For C” receives a very rare revival while Billy Strayhorn’s “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing” benefits from being given an unusual and somewhat exotic rhythm.” Benny Golson’s “Stablemates” has some freer moments where Haskins purposely plays out of time, adding to the suspense of the ultimately swinging performance. Guiherme Vergueiro’s “Sambo do Brilho” (highlighted by a particularly driving guitar solo) and Kenny Dorham’s “Straight Ahead” (which lives up to its name and really cooks) conclude the enjoyable set. 

            Anyone visiting Richmond, Virginia in more normal times is well advised to check out the Jason Jenkins Quartet whenever it appears at the Barrel Thief Café. In the meantime, its recent recording is easily recommended. 

Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian

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