During the course of Sean Jones’ burgeoning career beginning with his Mack Avenue Records debut in 2004, Eternal Journey, the trumpeter/bandleader has embarked on a series of quests, passionately plumbing the depths of different wellsprings of his life as a musician. His first album, recorded when he was 24, was his awakening, “my first step out into the recording world,” Jones says. That was followed by more steps as well as leaps, with the theme of personal navigation at the center of his vision. In the process, Jones has developed into one of jazz’s top young trumpeters, known for both his lyrical fluidity and high-tier technical facility. “The idea of being on a journey has been in line with all my albums,” he says. “My second album, Gemini, explored both sides of my musical loves, r&b and jazz. I expanded that with Roots, where I revisited my youth and paid tribute to gospel. And then on Kaleidoscope, I created a collage of sounds, exploring different timbres by enlisting vocalists to be collaborators.”
On Jones’ fifth album, The Search Within, the venture continues, but this time the focus turns inward. “This is a journey inside my soul that’s taken place over the past 10 years,” Jones says. “It’s an assessment of where I am in the present as well as how I’ve learned from my mistakes and triumphs as a way of looking into the future. This album goes very deep for me. It’s a spiritual and sonic journey for me.”
Along for the ride is a superb band (a group of “unsung heroes,” Jones says) that includes Orrin Evans on piano and Fender Rhodes, saxophonists Brian Hogans (alto) and Walter Smith (tenor), bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Obed Calvaire, all of whom have been mainstays in Jones’ band. “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” Jones says when asked about the group’s personnel consistency. Special guests include Gregoire Maret on harmonica, Erika Von Kleist on flute, Kahlil Bell on percussion and vocalist Carolyn Perteete, who Jones introduced on Kaleidoscope.
The Search Within strikes a decidedly reflective posture even though Jones delivers a stylistic range of expression, from straight-up swing to down-home groove to lyrical balladry. The title song serves as the theme on the album. A segment of the tune opens the album as a prelude, another part appears midway as an interlude and the third section closes the disc as a postlude. (The tune appears in its entirety as a digital exclusive.) “’The Search Within’ sets the mood for the album,” says Jones. “I wrote it while sitting at the piano, reflecting on my life. I started out playing a set of chords, then figured out the melody later. The first part is reflection, the second part is like looking at the mirror and being surprised at how deeply chaotic things can be in your life, and the third part is this sense of resignation and reflection.” Jones adds with a laugh, “By the end it’s also about saying, OK, let’s move on now. I’m tired of looking at myself.”