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Sam Jones - Right Down Front
For this compilation of small big-band performances, bassist Sam Jones -- long recognized for his ability to anchor and swing a session -- reliably grounds a collection of arrangements that have an affinity with the Count Basie Band's early-'60s book. The tracks are from three LPs that Jones recorded between 1960 and 1962, during his tenure with Cannonball Adderley's group. With the bassist are various Adderley bandmembers, including Cannonball himself, his brother Nat, drummer Louis Hayes, and pianists Bobby Timmons and Joe Zawinul. They are joined by likeminded hard boppers, such as tenor player Jimmy Heath and trumpeter Blue Mitchell. When Jones does step into the spotlight it is on the cello, which he plays on five of the 11 tracks. He has abundant facility on the smaller instrument, the equal of any of its practitioners from Oscar Pettiford to Ron Carter. That said, his tone, possibly due to the recording, is frequently dry and percussive. The warm, resonant cello work on "'Round Midnight" is an exception to this situation. The tracks with Jones on bass, discreetly taking charge from within the rhythm section, are the more satisfying performances. Highlights include a ten-piece setting for Miles Davis' "Four" and the only Jones original on the set, "Unit 7," a track he recorded with the Adderley band. A few more of the leader's pieces would have been welcome, as Jones is a talented writer as well as an exceptional bassist.