When you hear about a violinist playing jazz, the first thing that comes to mind is Stephane Grappelli. So when the latest album from veteran Canadian pianist Oliver Jones’ fine trio has them playing with classical violinist Josée Aidans, the urge to compare is hard to resist. The trouble is that as well done as the new album, Just For My Lady, happens to be as a whole, Aidans (who is an excellent violinist) is not yet a jazz violinist. Part of being a jazz musician, in a real sense the largest part, is creative improvisation. And as well as she plays on this album, it seems she doesn’t do her own improvising.
“Actually, Josée has never played any jazz before,” Jones explains in a publicity release. “She’s coming from a strictly classical background, so I ended up writing out some things for her to play on her solos. She’s able to interpret it exactly the way that I wanted it because she’s such a fine musician and she has a very wonderful approach. So I wrote everything down for her and she just went through it like butter.” Certainly he likes what she does, and what is there not to like? But if she is interested in playing jazz on a regular basis, I would think she would want to develop her own improvisatory skills. As Jones concludes, “I’m looking forward to the next year of working with her and experimenting on a few other things. I’m really going to see if I can get her to start improvising on her own.”
Still, if you have the talent and a mentor like Jones to guide you, you can’t go wrong. Mixing a set of Jones originals with a standard or two, the new album makes clear that the septuagenarian pianist, who had claimed that the time had come to think about slowing down, isn’t yet quite ready for the retirement home. He takes Aidans and the trio on a swinging trip, opening the album with his own “Josée’s Blues” and later his three movement composition, “The Saskatchewan Suite.” This last was composed for the 25th anniversary of the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival. Originally written for big band, Jones has adapted it for the smaller ensemble. The first movement is a ballad, the second has a bop vibe, and the third a Latin feel. The other Jones pieces are “Lights of Burgundy,” “The Angel and Mr. Jones,” “In the Key of Geoff,” and the title song.
“When the Summer Comes,” composed by fellow Canadian legend Oscar Peterson, provides a nice opportunity for bassist Eric Lagacé to show his wares, as he does a number of times on the album. They play some rhythmic games with Michel Legand’s classic “The Windmills of My Mind” and end with a swinging version of “Lady Be Good.” Drummer Jim Doxas shines throughout the album.
Given what Aidans has managed to accomplish with this music, it is no wonder that Jones looks forward to continuing to work with her and seeing what she does down the road. This is fine work, it can only get even better.