Hank Jones With the Meridian String Quartet

Throughout the past half century, jazz musicians have occasionally recorded with string sections. Perhaps the most famous early example featured Charlie Parker's 1952 work for producer Norman Granz. But there is a world of difference in intention between Parker's pioneering efforts and the results here. When Parker recorded with strings (and voices, and large orchestras) the results were calculated more to expand his audience in a mainstream direction than to break new musical ground. The pattern was repeated almost verbatim 15 years later when guitarist Wes Montgomery worked with similar sweetening and found considerable rewards in the pop marketplace. Montgomery earned the disdain of many contemporaries and critics. Similarly, Parker with strings, while remaining interesting to collectors and Birdophiles, has never represented an artistic highpoint in the altoist's career. The case could not be more different here. These ten tracks (nearly 58 minutes of music), approach a highpoint in Jones's recorded work and offer both challenges and delights to the listener. These are not the kind of strings used to sweeten, dilute or broaden the base of music. The Meridian String Quartet plays in a decidedly modern style and their challenging and dissonant voicing will not bring Jones' music closer to a mainstream audience. Ironically, if anything, it is Jones' piano work that keeps these tracks more musically accessible. Nearly 40 years ago music like this enjoyed a brief wave of attention under the title "Third Stream Music." Albums by pianist Joe Zawinul and by the Modern Jazz Quartet took the genre about as far as the marketplace would tolerate. That was none too far and efforts like this CD are hardly commonplace among today's releases. (Laserlight)