Album Review: Mimi Jones – Balance

The following review first appeared in the February 2014 issue of Eric Nemeyer’s Jazz Inside Magazine.

Mimi Jones

Mimi Jones Cover Shot

BALANCE – Hot Tone Music HTM 103 www.hottonemusic.com  Nothing Like You; Traveler; Speedbump; The Incy Wincy Spider; The Spinning Tree; Patriot; Someone Like You; To Be; The Edge of a Circle; Everybody Loves The Sunshine; Junk Funk; Dream

PERSONNEL: Mimi Jones, bass, voice; Ingrid Jensen, trumpet; Camille Thurman, flute, voice; Luis Perdomo, piano, Wurlitzer, rhodes, moog; Enoch Smith, Jr., piano; Mike Hamaya, piano, Wurlitzer, rhodes; Marvin Sewell, guitar, piano; Sean Harkness, guitars; Shirazette Tinnin, drums, percussion; Justin Faulkner, drums; Mala Waldron, vocal

By Curtis Davenport

Attractive young woman…plays a killer jazz bass… sings well…not overly concerned with genre boundaries…

If I were lazy, I would make this review about a comparison between Mimi Jones and a certain Grammy winning artist who also meets all of the above criteria. But I’m not going to do that. This is all about Mimi Jones, because she deserves to be considered solely on her own substantial merits.

Mimi Jones (birth name: Miriam Sullivan) is a New York City native who grew up with a multitude of musical influences; from the Caribbean music of her parent’s birthplaces, to straight-ahead jazz, to ‘70’s R & B to The Doors and Streisand.  She originally studied the guitar before enrolling in high school and discovering that the school did not have a guitar program. She then switched to the cello but destiny could not be denied as young Miriam was discovered by a music teacher, spinning a friend’s upright bass and playing the iconic bassline from the Barney Miller TV show.  The teacher immediately drafted Miriam into the school’s jazz band and then began to study the instrument that she excels with today. She has learned quickly; studying with bassist Lisle Atkinson and others leading to work with Roy Hargrove, Joshua Redman and Kevin Mahogany and recordings with Tia Fuller, Terri Lyne Carrington and Lizz Wright, among others. In 2009, Ms. Sullivan recorded her debut album as a leader A New Day. She also adopted the alter ego by which she is now professionally known, Mimi Jones.  A New Day was, for the most part a contemporary jazz album, with a heavy dose of vocals and a decided R & B influence in most of the performances. On her new album, Balance Ms. Jones leans more in a traditional jazz direction, though there is still a nice dose of the contemporary. Ms. Jones has matured as an artist and composer in the four years between albums and it’s quite evident throughout. While A New Day was good, I found Balance to be much more satisfying for me as a listener.

Ms. Jones has an impressive list of guest stars to help put forth her vision; Ingrid Jensen appears on trumpet on a couple of tracks; Luis Perdomo, a terrific pianist/keyboardist who you should know if you don’t already, also guests as does guitarist Marvin Sewell.  Equally if not more impressive is the work of the lesser known musicians who come up strong throughout this date. “Nothing Like You” the Bob Dorough composition jumps out at you from the beginning in an instrumental trio version which allows Ms. Jones to show off her bowed and plucked bass skills.  Mr. Perdomo takes it to the next level with a fiery piano solo. “Speedbump”, written by Jones and Perdomo is excellent post-bop with Ms. Jensen blowing hard and sounding like Miles fronting his last great quintet. Perdomo eggs her on while Ms Jones and drummer Justin Faulkner are a powerful rhythm duo. Perdomo’s sudden shifting of gears into 4/4 in the middle is very striking.  A very pleasant surprise is an easygoing take on Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” on which Ms. Jones gets some formidable support from two of her Hot Tone label mates, drummer Shirazette Tinnin and Camille Thurman on flute and ethereal soprano vocals.  Ms. Tinnin is a very strong percussionist as she proves here and on a couple of other tracks. And Ms. Thurman’s vocal harmonies and scatting set the perfect groove. Though she doesn’t play it here, Ms. Thurman is also a formidable tenor saxophonist, watch out for all three of these young ladies, who are simultaneously releasing new albums. But my favorite track was “Incy Wincy Spider”, the quirkiest take on that old children’s song that I’ve ever heard. It starts with a foreboding and slightly dissonant piano line, followed by Ms. Jones’ haunting vocal. Just when things have turned as dark as possible, the sun comes out and the performance turns bright and swinging on the back of Miki Hayama’s piano, another strong bass solo by Ms. Jones and Tinnin’s perky cymbals. It looks like everything turned out okay for that spider after all.

Mimi Jones is an exciting talent and Balance is a very, very good album. It kept my attention from first note to last, which isn’t an easy thing to do. It is accessible and diverse but I never felt like the musicians were pandering to anyone’s tastes. It is an album that I expect to return to many times throughout this year.

One Response to “Album Review: Mimi Jones – Balance”

  1. […] Balance – Mimi Jones – This album was my introduction to Hot Tone Music, as I was assigned to review it for Jazz Inside Magazine. It’s a confident blend of original compositions and covers of tunes that are well know but not done so often that they’ve become clichéd. Guest appearances by Ingrid Jensen, Luis Perdomo, Marvin Sewell and Ms. Jones’ two Hot Tone label mates, help take things to the next level. It was a long, long time before I moved this disc out of my player. Read my Jazz Inside Review HERE. […]

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