Piano master Mike Jones returns to the Green Mill in Chicago Friday and Saturday, March 23 and 24
Performances celebrate The Show Before the Show, Jones’s new Capri Records album with bassist/magician Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller. “The most remarkable pure technique of any piano player working in jazz today.” – Neil Tesser, Author of The Playboy Guide to Jazz . “Yup, this is Jonesy, our piano player. He’s a monster.” – Penn Jillette
Jones, one of our most accomplished mainstream jazz pianists, is celebrating the release of his new Capri Records album The Show Before The Show (March 16, 2018) a duo recording with magician and bass player Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller fame. Jones has been the musical director for Penn & Teller’s Las Vegas show since early 2002, playing both before the show begins and, when called upon, during the act. As the new millennium began, Jillette, who played the electric bass as a pastime, began to seriously study the acoustic instrument. Joining Jones on stage during the early set (“the show before the show”), Jillette and the pianist would romp through well-loved standards, providing the audience with a taste of first-rate jazz. Nearly twenty years later, the duo still sound like they’re having the time of their lives.
As Jillette has said, “When you ask Jonesy what kind of music we play, he says, “Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown.” When you ask me, I say, “Oscar Peterson and…a bass player.” I wear a hat and a coat, and even though I’m very recognizable, you just don’t expect the pre-show bass player to be someone important. I’m not lit, and people don’t notice me…I make all the money doing the Penn and Teller show, but the 45 minutes before the show is just wonderful for me. It’s very humbling to play with Jonesy. He’s never wrong.”
Standards make up the bulk of The Show Before the Show, including such imperishable tunes as “Broadway,” “Have You Met Miss Jones,” and “There is No Greater Love” as well as the Bossa Nova classics “Corcovado” and “Manha de Carnival.” (There’s also room for Jones’s own joyful “Box Viewing Blues.”) . Throughout, Jones displays his matchless virtuosity, his prodigious technical gifts and sweeping knowledge of the jazz tradition allowing him to mingle swing, pre-swing and stride idioms effortlessly and with utmost taste. Although he works seamlessly with his duet partner, Jones is also given a chance to demonstrate his one-man-band abilities on the closing track, “Exactly Like You.” A tour de force of dashing pianistics, the performance becomes a showcase for Jones’s two-handed wizardry. For his part, Jillette, the perfect support player, grounds the music with rhythmically sure and harmonically apt playing, even getting off some snappy solos in the bargain. “I can’t imagine anyone would see my position in jazz and not think it’s the most enviable possible,” Jillette has stated. “I get to play professionally, not need the money and play with the best person in the world. Beat that!”
Graduating from the Berklee College of Music in 1986, Mike Jones remained in the Boston area working with such eminent local players as Herb Pomeroy and Gray Sargent. After significant East Coast performances, appearances at the Floating Jazz Festival on the S.S. Norway and the Queen Elizabeth ll, and a series of acclaimed recordings that established him as a world-class pianist steeped in the pre-bop jazz tradition, Jones relocated to Las Vegas where he caught the eye of Penn Jillette, who in 2002, brought Jones onboard for the nightly Penn and Teller show. He has released two highly acclaimed albums on Capri Records: 2012’s Plays Well With Others, and 2016’s Roaring. He is a Kawai Pianos artist.
The Mike Jones Trio featuring Jones on piano, bassist Kelly Sill, and drummer Eric Montzka will perform on Friday, March 23 from 9 p.m.-1 a.m., and on Saturday, March 24 from 8 p.m.-midnight at the Green Mill Jazz Club, 4802 N. Broadway Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $15. For information call 773-878-5552 or visit www.greenmilljazz.com.