The title of trumpeter Sean Jones’ new album, The Search Within, provides a pretty strong clue to the career progression of the young jazz musician. It’s his fifth in five years — all on the Mack Avenue label — and follows up on 2007’s Kaleidoscope. That effort featured a diversified collection with a lot of guest vocalists, but this time around Jones has focused on more closely on himself — not only as a soloist and leader, but also as the composer of most of the pieces on the album.
Jones is backed by some skillful sidemen, including keyboardist Orrin Evans, bassist Luques Curtis, drummer Obed Calvaire, and a couple of talented saxophonists, Brian Hogans and Walter Smith. He’s also enlisted some guest stars, including Gregoire Maret on harmonica and vocalist Carolyn Perteet, who — along with several others here — was also featured on Jones’ previous album.
While many of those earlier releases might have shown a definite tilt toward a more contemporary — even a pop — sound, many of Jones’ compositions here appear to be moving a little closer to hard bop. A good example is “Transitions,” which features Jones’ trumpet wickedly dueling with Hogans’ alto sax in a piece that also demonstrates the full ensemble sound. Also noteworthy, a dazzling performance by the trumpeter on “Sean Jones Comes Down,” written for him by jazz legend Frank Foster.
A number of tracks explore other facets of the group’s sound, including some nicely done Latin rhythms on “The Storm,” and Perteet’s sad and soulful vocal on “Letter Of Resignation.” On the softer side, I especially enjoyed “Love’s Lullaby,” and the title tune, which makes a triple appearance of sorts. Part of it serves as the opening track, another as an interlude, and finally it’s the postlude of the album. (It’s available in a single version as a download.)
Sean Jones has followed a successful recipe for his fifth album. Solid compositions in a collection that skillfully blends his own outstanding play with that of his talented cohorts — a winning combination.