by Ian Mann
February 05, 2020
This new EP finds the quartet successfully investigating three very different styles of jazz and doing so in highly convincing fashion.
Dave Jones Quartet
“Is That The Time?”
(Self released – catalogue number DJT010)
Dave Jones – piano, electric piano, synthesiser, composer
Ben Waghorn – soprano & tenor saxes, flute
Ashley John Long – double bass, electric bass
Andy Hague - drums
This new three track EP represents the tenth release as a leader by the Port Talbot pianist and composer Dave Jones, a vital and popular presence on the Welsh jazz scene and beyond.
He has been featured regularly on the Jazzmann web pages, as have all the members of his current working group, which includes Cardiff based Long and, from the other side of the Severn Bridge, Bristol based musicians Waghorn and Hague.
In the 1990s Jones spent time in London, establishing himself on the city’s jazz scene and recording the 1996 album “Have You Met Mr. Jones?” plus a long deleted EP in 1999. In addition to his work as jazz musician Jones has also been a prolific composer of ‘library music’ and his work in this area has been heard regularly on television and film.
In recent years Jones has enjoyed something of a ‘jazz renaissance’ and has released an impressive catalogue of jazz recordings beginning with 2009’s trio set “Impetus”, featuring brothers Mark and Chris O’Connor on drums and bass respectively.
This was followed by the the more expansive offerings “Journeys (2010) and “Resonance” (2012), both of which featured a core quartet including saxophonist Lee Goodall, plus additional brass and strings. Like “Impetus” both albums highlighted just what an accomplished and ambitious composer Jones can be, and all attracted an impressive amount of critical acclaim from the London based jazz media.
For a number of years Jones’ preferred working group was a quartet featuring Goodall on reeds, Long on double bass and, when available, the Irishman Kevin Lawlor at the drums. This line up released the excellent concert recording “Live At AMG” in 2014.
Jones has since released “Postscript” (2016), an intimate duo set recorded with Long, and has appeared as a sideman on Lawlor’s solo albums “Exodus” (2013) and “Eight” (2015). Other credits include work with the jazz/folk outfit Burum and with Coltrane Dedication, the free-wheeling aggregation co-led by saxophonists Lyndon Owen and Caractacus Downes.
In 2017 Jones released the album “Keynotes”, which featured the nucleus of this current group with Waghorn and Long joined by the youthful drummer Lloyd Haines. A graduate of the Jazz Course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff Haines is now making his name on the London jazz scene and he was subsequently replaced by the versatile Hague, best known as a highly skilled trumpeter but equally accomplished behind the drum kit.
Hague appeared on the Jones Quartet’s acclaimed 2019 EP “Answers On A Postcard” and has become a permanent fixture in the drum chair. “Answers..” also featured Long playing his ‘second’ instrument, the vibraphone, on which he displays considerable ability. Overall this is a ridiculously talented quartet. Sadly no vibes this time round, while Hague is yet to make his trumpet début with this group.
After releasing a number of full length albums Jones currently prefers to record in the EP format for reasons that at the time of “Answers on a Postcard” he explained thus;
“The decision to go with an EP this time, rather than a conventional-length album, is largely to do with how the current-day cycle of composing and recording new music works, in reality in order to get gigs and radio plays. The ‘old’ model of e.g. a full-length album of new material about every two years, seems to result in a lull at some point in the cycle, where the gigs as a result of the current album start to run out before any new material is recorded to re-generate the cycle. In contrast, the EP approach makes it easier to release new material more often, to better serve the process of getting gigs and radio plays, which helps to maintain contact with an audience, whether live or on radio”.
For Jones both the “KeyNotes” album and the “Answers…” EP acted as a kind of ‘return to roots’ following the experiments of “Journeys” and “Resonance” with the music best described as representing an updating of the classic Blue Note hard bop style. “Back to basics – but not basic” is how Jones likes to describe it.
Following the success of “KeyNotes” and “Answers..” Jones takes a different approach this time round, but without straying too far from the quartet’s ‘core values’. The most significant change is the use of electric instruments on the closing “No Parking!”, while Waghorn deploys a different horn on every track.
The EP commences with “Dedication (Doctone)”, Jones’ homage to the late, great pianist and composer Kenny Kirkland. The piece announces itself with a maelstrom of sound, with Waghorn’s soprano sax soaring above the rhythmic barrage generated by Jones, Long and Hague. The piece then settles into a more formal, modal sounding theme with Waghorn probing more gently above an undulating groove. I’ve always regarded Long as one of the UK’s most effective and accomplished double bass soloists. Bass solos are never boring when Long is around and his trademark combination of great melodic sense, virtuoso technique and spirit of adventure is apparent in his feature here. The leader follows at the piano, his soloing simultaneously lyrical and expansive and displaying something of Kirkland’s spirit. Waghorn then returns on soprano, now exploring more deeply and incisively above the subtly shifting polyrhythmic grooves. I recall this piece being played under the working title “DT” at a live performance by the quartet at Black Mountain Jazz in Abergavenny in April 2019. “Doc Tone” was a nickname given to Kirkland, a musician who famously worked with both Wynford and Branford Marsalis and was part of Sting’s touring band, also appearing on several of his albums.
Incredibly “Dai’s Bossa” represents Jones’ first attempt to write a bossa nova tune. This features Waghorn on flute, and he solos effectively on the instrument above an undertow of complex but infectious Brazilian inspired rhythms. Jones then emerges to deliver a flowing and expansive piano solo and the supremely dexterous Long is also featured at the bass. All in all pretty good for a first attempt, I’d say.
“No Parking!” is a piece that represents something of a throwback to Jones’ early days playing in funk and fusion bands. It features the composer on electric piano and synthesiser and Long on electric bass. These two combine with Hague’s subtly propulsive drumming to create a seductive groove that is topped by Waghorn’s r’n’b flavoured tenor sax. Jones’ keyboard solo captures the classic Rhodes sound that defined so much classic 70s and 80s fusion. Waghorn then solos more expansively on tenor, followed by Long on high register Jaco Pastorius / Steve Swallow style electric bass. It may be a throwback, but it’s great fun and sounds authentically ‘American’.
“Is That The Time?” finds the Jones quartet moving on from the Blue Note inspired sounds of “KeyNotes” and “Answers on a Postcard”, but still retaining the essential spirit of the group, a spirit honed in regular live performance.
This new EP finds them successfully investigating three very different styles of jazz and doing so in highly convincing fashion. The variety is very welcome and despite the stylistic variations between the three pieces the recording coheres very nicely as a whole and the quartet retain their group identity throughout. The playing is uniformly excellent and where appropriate the blending of acoustic and electric sounds is also both convincing and impressive.
There’s nothing earth shattering here but “Is That The Time?” maintains Dave Jones’ high standards as a player and a composer and will help to consolidate his reputation on the jazz scene in Wales and beyond.
“Is That The Time?” will be officially launched at a lunchtime show at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street, Soho, London on Saturday, February 22nd 2020 and the quartet will also play a number of other UK tour dates commencing tonight, Wednesday 5th February 2020, at The Flute and Tankard in Cardiff.
The full tour schedule is shown below;
5th February - The Flute and Tankard, Cardiff
22nd February - Pizza Express Jazz Club (Soho), London (lunchtime).
3rd April - The Be-Bop Club, Bristol
7th April - St.Ives Jazz Club, Cornwall
14th April – Jazz on the Corner, Swindon
5th June - Birmingham Jazz
24th June - Fringe Jazz, Bristol
30th August – Aberjazz Festival, Fishguard
More information at;