Hank Jones began the Thursday of his week-long double bill by peering at a set list scrawled on stationery from a Holiday Inn. Then the pianist introduced drummer Joe LaBarbera, bassist George Mraz, and Charlie’s Parker’s “Au Privave,” which he counted off at an easygoing clip. Each of the ensuing solo choruses was a discrete episode, a 12-bar riddle he resolved just in time for the next one to arrive.
Jones’s style at age 86 is a union of urbanity, economy, and humility—same as it ever was, but never more uncommon. Halfway through the set he polished a Mary Lou Williams gem called “Lonely Moments,” gleefully pouncing on the verse’s eighth-note syncopations. Another obscurity, “Lady Luck” by brother Thad, employed a loping swing that Jones overlaid with tasteful arpeggios. Mraz’s judicious pizzicato and LaBarbera’s melodic percussion magnified the tenor of restraint throughout, and elevated Jones. Notwithstanding a desultory “Body and Soul,” the tuxedoed trio maintained an effortless grace that suited their straightforward aims.
Where Jones was direct, Werner was discursive. His trio set the tone for the set’s second half with an abstract reduction of “Stella by Starlight.” Melodically, he was more faithful to J.S. Bach’s “Sicilienne,” although his arrangement rode a current stirred by Ari Hoenig’s cymbals. Werner, who is some 30 years younger than Jones, shares his elder’s awareness of touch but not his aversion to drama, which might have saved the younger player from a vainly thrashing “Greensleeves.” His trio was more smartly aggressive on a wily original called “Amonkst” (for guess who?) and a revision of Miles Davis’s “Solar.” On the latter, Hoenig and bassist Johannes Weidenmueller engaged in rhythmic peekaboo, playfully but purposefully nudging Werner toward the most climactic solo of the night. The breezy 7/8 of “Solar” was all the more impressive given Jones’s earlier warning that “Intimidation,” an original piece, “starts out in 5/4, and gets progressively worse.” It turned out to be a conventional swinger with a cascading melody and the briefest of odd-metered intros. But that’s the beauty of contrast. Werner made Jones look good too.