Jazz trumpeter Sean Jones’s original compositions are, he says, informed by the life he leads. In his latest album, “No Need for Words,” the former lead horn blower for Wynton Marsalis’s Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra, tells us he’s in love; not only with someone, but clearly with jazz.
You can find out what love sounds like coming from a contemporary jazz great Friday at the fourth annual Elizabeth City State University Jazz Festival. Organized by trumpeter and university professor Douglas Jackson, this evening of music presents Jones as the feature entertainer along with the ECSU Jazz Ensemble and a guest jazz vocalist.
From bebop to progressive – think Miles Davis to Ronnie Laws – Jones’s sound is all his own, but deftly drawn from the modern traditions of a musical form that is purely American.
Jones calls his style “neo bebop,” although he concedes he’s not certain as to whether or not the term exists in the contemporary musical lexicon. That’s OK, a master trumpeter such as Jones can be forgiven for branding his style anyway he sees fit.
As lead trumpeter for Marsalis and the Lincoln Center, Jones made a name for himself in the jazz world. But when it was time for the Ohio native to set out on his own, he formed a band, took on duties as a music professor at Duquesne University and began recording and touring.
His latest album, “No Need for Words,” explores love in all its form, Jones explains.
“The album explores different types of love,” he said in a phone interview last week. Some songs touch on “fury,” as in, “love can make you angry.” And others touch on what Jones characterizes as the most “profound aspect of love,” forgiveness.
Of course a jazz instrumentalist is going to present his concepts in sound, rather than touching on the written word. And while instrumental compositions expressing aspects of love might seem abstract to some, Jones says it’s all a matter of artistic expression.
“Basically a trained musician is like a trained visual artist,” he explained. “It’s easier for someone to conceive of a picture than conceive of a sound portraying emotion. So when I do scales each one of those scales is going to portray an emotion.”
For example, he explained that sadness could be conveyed simply by creating the sound of sadness.
Listening to Jones’s latest recordings, it’s not a leap to connect him with the recent past and the greats such as Miles Davis. Jones readily admits that Davis has been a major influence on his sound, but also points to Marsalis as an influence.
“Wynton Marsalis is the hardest working musician I have worked with,” said Jones. “He has a vision. He works for that vision.”
And Jones has his own vision, too.
“I thought that although jazz is being informed by many different styles, there are certain things I want to keep as a thread,” he said. “One of them being improv. One of them being acoustic sound and one of them being the rhythm component; that elasticity of swing.”
That last phrase, the elasticity of swing, refers to the ebb and flow of the sound, he explained.
“That is what people like in music. Buoyancy of rhythm.”
When Jones comes to ECSU later this week, he’ll share his vision with students there. When he plays Friday night, he’ll share it with the rest of us through his sound.
And beyond his performance Friday, jazz, he says, will be around to allow future musicians to, “Portray the landscape of what is going on in the world and particularly the American culture.”
To discover what that sounds like, you can enjoy the concert Friday, at 7:30 p.m. in the ECSU Fine Arts Auditorium. Tickets are $10 for adults but no fee for students who present their current school ID at the entrance door. Children under 12 admitted free.