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Lee Jones - After The Pier Rating: 3-5 out of 5 Consolidates Jones' work from his first two albums and retains his fascination with classic funk and fusion styles while subtly extending his explorations into the realms of contemporary electronica.

Lee Jones

“After The Pier”

“After The Pier” is the third album release by the guitarist and composer Lee Jones, a graduate of the Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire who is now based in Ludlow, Shropshire. Jones cut his teeth with the Shropshire Youth Jazz Ensemble before studying in Birmingham and remains a vital presence on the jazz scene in the Welsh Borders and surrounding areas.

Unusually for such a young man Jones is clearly very much influenced by 70s style funk and fusion and cites fellow guitarists John Scofield, Larry Carlton and George Benson as primary influences. His début album “Swish” (2008) explored this legacy while adding a variety of more contemporary twists, an approach that was further refined on the follow up “Songs From The 13th Hour” (2011).

Both of the previous albums have concentrated on Jones’ original compositions and the focus is the same again here. As before Jones has worked closely with producer Simon Tittley and the album was again recorded at Tittley’s Planet Zog Studio in Herefordshire. This time round Drago Matisse has also become involved in the production process as well as playing electric bass and adding his programming skills to the project.

Once again the personnel incorporates leading figures from Jones’ local jazz scene including Ben Thomas (trumpet, flugelhorn),  Andrew Shillingford (saxes), Rob Handleigh (violin) and Alex Steele (keyboards). Jones has always featured big name guests on his albums with trombonist Dennis Rollins taking the honours this time round. Previous collaborators have included drummers Troy Miller and Chris Dagley, bassist Zoltan Dekany, saxophonist Jean Toussaint and Fairport Convention’s Ric Sanders on violin. Most notable of all was Jones’ “cyber guitar duet” with the great American guitarist Larry Coryell on the track “Game On” from “Songs From The 13th Hour”, the whole piece put together through the wonders of internet file sharing.

With its emphasis on programmed beats “After The Pier” also makes full use of modern musical technology. The title track is an attention grabbing opener that incorporates funky electric bass and programmed beats with Shillingford sometimes multi tracked to sound like a full sax section. The saxophonist also gets to blow an earthy solo backed by Jones’ clangorous James Brown style funk chording. Eventually Jones himself gets the chance to cut loose himself with a spiralling solo inspired by the likes of Carlton and Scofield. It’s music rooted in another time but given a contemporary tweak and the love that Jones has for the style is again readily apparent.

Many of these pieces are very much studio creations with Tittley and Matisse playing a key role in the creative process. This is apparent on the insidious if faintly cheesy “False Alarm” which features Handleigh’s soaring violin and Jones’ fluent guitar soloing alongside the programmed beats. Several tunes also feature keyboards, these mainly played by the versatile Jones himself.

Both “Last Time Around” and “Polarity” feature the trombone soloing of guest Dennis Rollins. The first of these is a breezy funk offering that sees Rollins sharing the space with Shillingford’s airy soprano sax and Jones’ elegant, sometimes soaring guitar. Rollins’ solo is warm and fruity and complements his front line colleagues well.
“Polarity” is a more reflective, offering yet still retains an insistent funk undertow. Jones’ solo combines inventiveness with a cool sophistication and he’s followed by the uplifting sound of Rollins’ smooth, well rounded trombone.

The hard grooving “Who Said I Wouldn’t?” features drumming humanised by the presence of American drummer Mark Sacco.  He helps to underpin a thrilling series of exchanges between Jones and Handleigh with the pair also drifting into a more impressionistic episode mid tune. Jones’ subsequent solo is turbo charged and funky but also full of the lithe single note runs and sophisticated chording that have become his trademark. Meanwhile Handleigh’s thrilling solo recalls fusion’s violin pioneers such as Jerry Goodman and Jean Luc Ponty. 

“Tell Me About It” begins as a wistful, shimmering ballad given an element of punch by the clarion call of Thomas’ trumpet and the fluent, tasteful soloing of Jones on guitar. 

“The World’s Ours Tonight” is pure, unalloyed funk fusion and features a wiggling synthesiser solo from the nimble fingers of Alex Steele. Jones’ rhythm playing and choppy chording impresses throughout the album and does so again here, in addition to his own agile six string soloing.

“Sign Of The Times” adds elements of both blues and swing and features a relaxed solo from Jones above an infectious and insistent groove. It’s very much a feature for Jones’ superlative guitar playing.

The final track “Red Pill” takes Jones’ music further into the area of electronica and also includes the flexible, soulful, mainly wordless singing of guest vocalist Byron. The funk element is still there but nevertheless the piece represents something of a departure for Jones and hints at potential areas for him to explore in the future.

“After The Pier” consolidates Jones’ work from his previous two albums and retains his fascination with classic funk and fusion styles while subtly extending his explorations into the realms of contemporary electronica. It’s all done with his customary care and skill and his own playing is excellent throughout, whether in a lead or a supporting role. All of the regular contributors and guest soloists make telling contributions and the input of producers Tittley and Matisse is also key to the album’s success.

Jones inhabits a musical area that I don’t tend to listen to much anymore but I always find myself impressed by both his playing and composing in his chosen jazz idiom. Interestingly he’s currently undertaking a PhD course in Jazz Composition at the University of Salford. Already an impressive writer it will be interesting to see how he brings the fruits of his studies into play on his next album project. 

After The Pier

Lee Jones

Friday, April 24, 2015

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

3-5 out of 5

After The Pier

Consolidates Jones' work from his first two albums and retains his fascination with classic funk and fusion styles while subtly extending his explorations into the realms of contemporary electronica.

Lee Jones

“After The Pier”

“After The Pier” is the third album release by the guitarist and composer Lee Jones, a graduate of the Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire who is now based in Ludlow, Shropshire. Jones cut his teeth with the Shropshire Youth Jazz Ensemble before studying in Birmingham and remains a vital presence on the jazz scene in the Welsh Borders and surrounding areas.

Unusually for such a young man Jones is clearly very much influenced by 70s style funk and fusion and cites fellow guitarists John Scofield, Larry Carlton and George Benson as primary influences. His début album “Swish” (2008) explored this legacy while adding a variety of more contemporary twists, an approach that was further refined on the follow up “Songs From The 13th Hour” (2011).

Both of the previous albums have concentrated on Jones’ original compositions and the focus is the same again here. As before Jones has worked closely with producer Simon Tittley and the album was again recorded at Tittley’s Planet Zog Studio in Herefordshire. This time round Drago Matisse has also become involved in the production process as well as playing electric bass and adding his programming skills to the project.

Once again the personnel incorporates leading figures from Jones’ local jazz scene including Ben Thomas (trumpet, flugelhorn),  Andrew Shillingford (saxes), Rob Handleigh (violin) and Alex Steele (keyboards). Jones has always featured big name guests on his albums with trombonist Dennis Rollins taking the honours this time round. Previous collaborators have included drummers Troy Miller and Chris Dagley, bassist Zoltan Dekany, saxophonist Jean Toussaint and Fairport Convention’s Ric Sanders on violin. Most notable of all was Jones’ “cyber guitar duet” with the great American guitarist Larry Coryell on the track “Game On” from “Songs From The 13th Hour”, the whole piece put together through the wonders of internet file sharing.

With its emphasis on programmed beats “After The Pier” also makes full use of modern musical technology. The title track is an attention grabbing opener that incorporates funky electric bass and programmed beats with Shillingford sometimes multi tracked to sound like a full sax section. The saxophonist also gets to blow an earthy solo backed by Jones’ clangorous James Brown style funk chording. Eventually Jones himself gets the chance to cut loose himself with a spiralling solo inspired by the likes of Carlton and Scofield. It’s music rooted in another time but given a contemporary tweak and the love that Jones has for the style is again readily apparent.

Many of these pieces are very much studio creations with Tittley and Matisse playing a key role in the creative process. This is apparent on the insidious if faintly cheesy “False Alarm” which features Handleigh’s soaring violin and Jones’ fluent guitar soloing alongside the programmed beats. Several tunes also feature keyboards, these mainly played by the versatile Jones himself.

Both “Last Time Around” and “Polarity” feature the trombone soloing of guest Dennis Rollins. The first of these is a breezy funk offering that sees Rollins sharing the space with Shillingford’s airy soprano sax and Jones’ elegant, sometimes soaring guitar. Rollins’ solo is warm and fruity and complements his front line colleagues well.
“Polarity” is a more reflective, offering yet still retains an insistent funk undertow. Jones’ solo combines inventiveness with a cool sophistication and he’s followed by the uplifting sound of Rollins’ smooth, well rounded trombone.

The hard grooving “Who Said I Wouldn’t?” features drumming humanised by the presence of American drummer Mark Sacco.  He helps to underpin a thrilling series of exchanges between Jones and Handleigh with the pair also drifting into a more impressionistic episode mid tune. Jones’ subsequent solo is turbo charged and funky but also full of the lithe single note runs and sophisticated chording that have become his trademark. Meanwhile Handleigh’s thrilling solo recalls fusion’s violin pioneers such as Jerry Goodman and Jean Luc Ponty. 

“Tell Me About It” begins as a wistful, shimmering ballad given an element of punch by the clarion call of Thomas’ trumpet and the fluent, tasteful soloing of Jones on guitar. 

“The World’s Ours Tonight” is pure, unalloyed funk fusion and features a wiggling synthesiser solo from the nimble fingers of Alex Steele. Jones’ rhythm playing and choppy chording impresses throughout the album and does so again here, in addition to his own agile six string soloing.

“Sign Of The Times” adds elements of both blues and swing and features a relaxed solo from Jones above an infectious and insistent groove. It’s very much a feature for Jones’ superlative guitar playing.

The final track “Red Pill” takes Jones’ music further into the area of electronica and also includes the flexible, soulful, mainly wordless singing of guest vocalist Byron. The funk element is still there but nevertheless the piece represents something of a departure for Jones and hints at potential areas for him to explore in the future.

“After The Pier” consolidates Jones’ work from his previous two albums and retains his fascination with classic funk and fusion styles while subtly extending his explorations into the realms of contemporary electronica. It’s all done with his customary care and skill and his own playing is excellent throughout, whether in a lead or a supporting role. All of the regular contributors and guest soloists make telling contributions and the input of producers Tittley and Matisse is also key to the album’s success.

Jones inhabits a musical area that I don’t tend to listen to much anymore but I always find myself impressed by both his playing and composing in his chosen jazz idiom. Interestingly he’s currently undertaking a PhD course in Jazz Composition at the University of Salford. Already an impressive writer it will be interesting to see how he brings the fruits of his studies into play on his next album project. 


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