Throughout his long career, the late pianist Hank Jones was always in great demand. During his final decade, notable jazz musicians queued up to record with him, prizing his tasteful swing-to-bop style and classiness as an accompanist.
A new duo release by Jones and bassist Charlie Haden, who came to fame in the late ’50s with Ornette Coleman, might lead jazz fans to expect a set of bop standards sprinkled with more adventurous improvisations. However, Come Sunday presents a far different vision. Recorded in early 2010, the session is a respectful set of religious hymns and folk songs. In fact, it’s a follow-up to 1994’s similar Steal Away.
Of the 14 numbers, only two exceed four minutes, and six cuts last less than three minutes. By and large, the duo sticks to the melody, with Haden stating the theme on half the tunes. Traditional numbers such as “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Nearer My God to Thee,” and a pair of Christmas songs (“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”), are played fairly straight and at slow, reverent tempos for the most part. Only “Down by the Riverside,” “Give Me That Old Time Religion” and “Come Sunday” approach a medium tempo.
These renditions could easily serve as background music at church. Although lacking adventure, the quietly emotional and heartfelt interpretations clearly express the spirit of spiritual men.
— Scott Yanow