The piano/voice duet is probably the most perilous form in all of music. It's so unadorned that a single flaw can stand out glaringly and the ambiance is so spare that both instruments—keyboard and larynx…must shimmer in order to make the atmosphere breathe. Any musician worth his or her salt has to quail when contemplating the medium, a cold sweat following soon after, a sense of doom hovering in the wings. Therefore, just the release of such an effort is an act of daring, but Joan Watson-Jones wasn't daunted for a minute, welcoming a challenge that brought her a sonic tabula rasa upon which to inscribe her artistry. Thank goodness, then, that she recruited a pianist with equal poise, Berklee alumnus and Hank Jones 'Jazz Master' award winner Frank Wilkins.
Though I was eager to dive into the take on Wild is the Wind, a song David Bowie dramatically captured long years ago, I was even more curious how Watson-Jones would tackle Van Morrison's Have I Told You Lately and thus surprised to hear a very Paul Williamsy cover taking the song down country lanes with faint touches of Doris Day. This made the eros of the following You Talk Too Much rather surprising, fresh-faced and bright but seductive nonetheless, Wilkins be-bopping behind and beside her. Thus the return of a slow quiet melancholy in the singer's arrangement of Wild is the Wind brought the entire affair back to the baseline wistful milieu that Quiet Conversations commenced with.
The most interesting selection is Watson-Jones' own Yes Dear, a modern-love ditty that will have both sexes grinning in wry understanding within a format straddling novelty and jazz adventurousness deftly handled (think of Ben Sidran, Mose Allison, and Michael Franks). And the tempering of Rod Stewart's Forever Young from an anthemic rocker to a folksy paean-wish of good fortune was the perfect choice as closer. Quiet, then, is just that, but it doesn't at all lack for vivacity. Watson-Jones finds many ways to wring subtle essences from the dominantly bluesy, laconic, restrained oeuvre, and Wilkins provides innumerable harmonies, side colorations, and contrasts, never blustery, never ham-fisted, always balanced.
"Mood Music" or perhaps "Chill." Old school or new school Joan Watson Jones takes care of business on her soon to be January 2 released Quiet Conversations - A Duet.
Christmas and New Year's not withstanding sometimes getting intimate with your jazz allows one to get back to basics, clean the sonic pallet and simply enjoy the beauty of a good melody and that sums up Quiet Conversations - A Duet with Frank Wilkins on piano.
An eclectic mix of tunes makes for a stellar release as a new breath of life is breathed into forgotten classics such as "Here's To Life." Originally made famous by the great Shirley Horn, Jones and Wilkins do their own riff that is more than satisfying. To knock out a cover with just the right reharm where the original melody line is left in tact is a thing of beauty and is done to perfection here. "You Don't Know What Love Is" comes straight from the heart with once again Wilkins proving himself as the perfect accompanist in this setting. Watson-Jones has perfect phrasing, for budding singers this is a master class in how to do what you do! An absolute delight is Van Morrison's "Have I Told You" where the riff here is inventive yet true to the original lyrical purpose of the Morrison classic.
Quiet Conversations - A Duet is the perfect end to a perfect day and hopefully perfect Christmas season for one and all!
Tracks: Here's To Life; You Don't Know What Love Is; May I Come In; You and I; Have I Told You; You Talk Too Much; Wild Is The Wind; One More Year; Yes Dear; Forever Young.
Personnel Joan Watson-Jones: Vocals; Frank Wilkins: Piano.
EYE OF SAMANTHA
JOAN WATSON-JONES with Frank Wilkins/Quiet Conversations-A Duet Ok jazzbos, check this out, Jones’ father was one of the founders of UMMG, and as such, when she says she was exposed to loads of killer jazz right at the source, she’s not talking trash. In a vocal/piano set, Jones stakes out the cabaret side of jazz vocals on a set of well chosen chestnuts. As adept with getting in touch with her inner Blossom Dearie as she is reaching for her inner Van Morrison, this is more of a treat than a record-record. In a setting as intimate as your living room, this duo fuses their experience and chops to sell a song like few others have the knack to do. Reveling in being off the beaten path, this is one of those connoisseur dates you don’t have to have your nose in the air to enjoy.
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher