|This Dill Jones album is a rare and highly varied collection of music, ranging from a tone poem in jazz to stride piano.
Prominent in the content are the four piano compositions of Bix Beiderbecke. Best known for the creative music he played on the trumpet, Bix was also a creative pianist. When he died in 1931 at the age of 28, he left these four piano compositions: In a Mist, Candlelights, Flashes, and In the Dark. He recorded only one of them, In a Mist.
Each of these compositions, after stating the central theme, develops with changing moods, both reflective and buoyant. The harmony, chord progressions, and intervals are distinctly Bix. For the jazz pianist, there is room for individual interpretation. Dill recognizes this with a few personal touches. Bix did not always play these compositions exactly the same way. He continued to improvise new variations from time to time.
The album has another Beiderbecke composition, Davenport Blues. It began as an improvisation by Bix at a 1925 recording session at the historic Gennett recording studios in Richmond, Indiana. The band picked it up, played along with Bix, and recorded it. The trombonist on the date, Tommy Dorsey, suggested naming it after Bix's home town, Daventport, Iowa. Bands have given Davenport many different treatments; it can be effective in a slow blues tempo or in a brisk tempo with a driving beat. Dill's piano treatment is slow and easy, reflective, and authentic Bix.
Also included are three tunes which were favorites of Bix: I'd Climb the Highest Mountain, Big Boy, and From Monday On. Big Boy was recorded by Bix and a small group in the mid-twenties; and, Bix played one piano chorus on it. This short passage is of interest chiefly to collectors aware of how little of Bix's piano was recorded. From Monday On was a hit recording of Paul Whiteman in 1928, and featured a memorable trumpet solo by Bix. Dill has developed all three of these into interesting piano treatments with a clearly discernible suggestion of the Bix style.
All eight of these-the for piano compositions, Davenport Blues, and the above threemake a valuable contribution to the recorded library of Bix's music.
The other four tunes are excellent choices to round out the collection. Little Rock Getaway, a jazz classic, was composed by Joe Sullivan, one of the greatest among jazz artists. It is the opening number in the album, and Dill keynotes what follows by interlocking the theme of Davenport Blues, the closing number.
Wherever There's Love was composed by Eddie Condon, with lyrics by John DeVries.
It was written for Lee Wiley, who introduced it in an Eddie Condon Jazz Concert at Town Hall in the mid-forties.
Cole Porter's Anything Goes is included because Dill is an admirer of Porter's music and because he knows that many of Porter's sophisticated tunes are rewarding vehicles for jazz. Dill gives this one an enthusiastic stride treatment.
Celtic Twilight is Dill Jones' own composition for piano. It strikes and sustains an evocative, introspective mood-poetic, with a jazz feeling.
Dill's interest in jazz goes back to the mid-thirties, when he was ten years old. In his home town of Lampeter, in South Wales, he listened to Ambrose, Jack Hylton, and other leading British orchestras on radio and to recordings of American jazz. Dill recalls that it was a Fats Waller recording that set him firmly on the jazz trail.
During service in the Royal Navy, Dill spent time off in London, usually at Feldman's Club, listening to George Shearing, Tommy Bromley, George Chisholm, and other popular jazz performers. Back in the civilian life, Dill developed his piano work on the BBC, where he appeared in the famous "Jazz Club" series.
In 1950, Dill played in the ship's orchestra on the Queen Mary. Ashore in New York, he made the rounds of spots where jazz was played, meeting many of the leading jazz musicians of the time. Then, in London, he formed his own trio for recordings, and toured England with Jazz at the Philharmonic. In 1961, Dill decided to pursue his career in New York. There were solo piano jobs in clubs and bars to start and band work with Jimmy McPartland and Eddie Condon.
Dill's interest in Bix and his music has been with him a long time. I first met Dill in the early sixties, when he was pianist in a band Yank Lawson organized for an engagement at the Grandview Inn in Columbus, Ohio. The band did a show in which each member was featured in turn. For his spot, Dill played In a Mist. A few years later, when Dill was with the Dukes of Dixieland on a Midwestern tour, he found the opportunity to visit Davenport and look around the town where Bix grew up.
Today, Dill is pianist in the JPJ Quartet, which also includes Budd Johnson on tenor and soprano sax, Oliver Jackson on drums, and Bill Pemberton on bass. In New York, they are heard at the Half Note, a long-established club known for good jazz.
DAVENPORT BLUES is Dill Jones' first solo recording in the U.S. Dill likes variety in music, and it shows in his choice of material. "Introspective and stomp," he says. His interpretations are thoughtful, and his improvisations have that personal quality so essential in good jazz.