If you’ve ever seen Penn & Teller’s show at the Rio in Las Vegas, Nevada, chances are you’ve watched Mike Jones perform. When I was in Vegas a few years ago (in my native language, “a few years ago” refers to anything from five to thirty years ago), Sharon and I treated ourselves to the Rio seafood buffet and a magic show. Mike Jones, accompanied by Penn Jillette on upright bass, entertained the audience until the actual magic show began.
Mike Jones is a jazz pianist who made his professional debut at the age of ten. He has several other albums to his credit, but has primarily been known as the music director for the Penn & Teller show for the past 20 years. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the shows have all been shut down. With some time on his hands, Jones recorded this album at home. It features tunes from the early decades of the 20th century, all songs in the public domain so he wouldn’t have to wrangle with legal rights.
The albums I talk about on “It’s a Good Record, Man” feature rock music almost exclusively. That’s more my thing than jazz (although I’ve been known to like some jazz-infused rock). However, I am also a keyboardist. I was careful to write “keyboardist” rather than “pianist,” because I believe there is a distinction. In no way, shape or form am I able to do what Mike Jones accomplishes on “All By Myself.” But, I am able to appreciate his talent.
You can listen to the entire album on Bandcamp at the link above. His interpretation of standards such as “It Had to Be You” and “Poor Butterfly,” are light and airy, hypnotic. The man has serious chops and you can tell that he could pull out all the stops and razzle-dazzle you, if that was the desired effect. Instead, Jones shows the great restraint that only a competent, experienced musician can, allowing the melodies to weave their way through the flowing stream of notes he plays.
This is the perfect backing soundtrack for a candlelit meal in a fancy restaurant. One of those old-fashioned steakhouses with a lot of dark wood, linen tablecloths, and framed black-&-white photos of important people on the wall.