VOICES Notes and news on Jazz releases
24 MAY 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
Pianist Elmo Hope grew up playing, sharing ideas and otherwise running with two of New York City's most famous piano compadres, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. Though he never achieved their historic fame, he proves their equal in sound and vision on Hope-Full (Original Jazz Classics, 1995).
Hope packs this set, subtitled Solo Piano & Duo Piano With Bertha Hope (his wife lends her hands to three pieces), full of the sound of joy, especially his original tunes. The duo "Blues Left And Right" doesn't maintain standard eight- or twelve-bar blues structure, but swirls in and around the blues -- blues as a feeling or an approach, not a mere form. "Most Beautiful" reflects the classic "But Beautiful" in gorgeous new and different directions. Strains of Fats Waller, and laughing echoes of Powell and Monk, bounce through Hope's rhythmic left hand in the fun not frivolous "Underneath."
"When Johnny Comes Marching Home" is a surprising selection in more ways than one: Hope opens up a middle passage of improvisation and exploration that constructs a fantastic voyage from the original piece; and it seems surprising that he mines so much joy from a song written to commemorate the bloodiest war in U.S. history.
Other Hope-filled titles include an all-star Homecoming (OJC, 1992) featuring brothers Percy and Jimmy Heath, Blue Mitchell and Philly Joe Jones; several of those tunes, plus tracks featuring Donald Byrd, Hank Mobley and John Coltrane as soloists, also appear on The All-Star Sessions (Milestone, 1989).