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Sean Jones ends jazz month with funky Cabaret performance

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Trumpeter Sean Jones is an awarding-winning musician and bandleader.

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By Bob Karlovits
Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 1:15 a.m.

In a Jazz Appreciation Month series dedicated to “Diggin' Deep,” trumpeter Sean Jones dug the deepest.

The series of concerts at the Cabaret Theater ended April 30 with Jones doing his second look at “Jazz Meets Funk,” and once again showing how deep the connection can be. He and bassist Dwayne Dolphin examined this hybrid in 2010, but with Dolphin out of town for the event, Jones put together a band that did the job just as well, perhaps better.

It was a concert that ranged from Jones's own “Chillin' at the Grill” to Jaco Pastorius' “The Chicken,” a masterpiece of funk-jazz that the band spent 20 minutes examining.

“Chillin' at the Grill” was Jones' successful attempt at merging the melodies of Duke Ellington with a more modern rhythm sound.

What made the concert a success was the band Jones assembled. It was built around him, drummer Poogie Bell and keyboardist Brett Williams, who will be playing with Marcus Miller this summer and whose play insists that jazz fans need to be aware of him.

But the band also featured saxophonist Tony Watson Jr. and bassist Walter Barnes, whose work was a dominant force through the night. Barnes, for instance, laid down bass lines that drove virtually every piece, standing their own on “The Chicken” and also getting a great spot on Bell's “Hard to Find.” Jones said the performance of “Hard to Find” was its first live performance.

But the songs and their versions were secondary to the wonderful play of the band. From Bell's first introductory passages to “The Chicken” through Kenny Garrett's “Wayne's Thing,” the band created a sound that was one of jazz meeting funk. Jones played with the power his fans expect, but in a soulful way far different from his work with bebop or hard-bop tunes.

Watson, similarly, created King Curtis-like solos that soared through the soulful pieces. The only drawback to his work was most of his tenor work was linked to some sort of pedal device, creating a sound that was not pure saxophone. His work on alto was purer.

Barnes was remarkable in the bass lines he created. He set a rhythmic force, but also added harmonic and rhythmic touches that extended each piece.

Of course, Jones' playing is not to be ignored. From statements that hinted at the “Grand Canyon Suite” or his funk-ridden lines, Jones gave a new life to all of this music.

It was an appropriate way to end the monthlong series.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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