Since 2002, pianist Mike Jones, a virtuoso with a forward-looking swinging style that would easily appeal to fans of Oscar Peterson, has been the warm-up act for Penn & Teller, the unique magicians. Jones plays for an hour in a duo before the magic act begins. His bassist is Penn Jillette.
Penn, the magician who talks on stage as opposed to the silent Teller, was a beginner in 2002. However he has developed since then into a fine musician with a big tone who plays swinging bass lines while staying mostly in a supportive role.
The Show Before The Show has Jones and Penn performing nine familiar standards plus the pianist’s original “Box Viewing Blues.” Jones (who had previously led at least eight albums) tears into such songs as “Broadway,” “But Not For Me,” “Tangerine,” and “Exactly Like You,” creating dazzling variations while keeping the melody close by.
His versions of “Corcovado” and “Manha de Carnival” largely ignore their bossa-nova roots in favor of swinging. Penn, who makes his recording debut as a bassist, sounds fine throughout, taking some basic solos and offering excellent accompaniment.
The fast-moving program (there is barely a second of silence between the songs and no ballads are included) stays happily stimulating throughout, making for a joyful listening experience.
The Show Before The Show (Capri 74148, 10 selections, TT = 60:38) www.caprirecords.com
Also available on 180 gram vinyl.