Rodney Jones

Soul is the truth. It’s what is real. From deep inside, Soul is who you are.

Here, we are presented with a soul manifesto. It’s not taught. It’s caught. It’s not about the beat. It’s about the vibe. It’s no fad or trend. It’s a place where it starts and how it ends. Soul is life itself.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone this is the manifesto put forth by Rodney Jones, one of the brightest, most idea-wise guitarists in jazz. Still, “Soul Manifesto” hardly seems a logical sequel to 1999’s “The Undiscovered Few,” a lovely tribute to the affirming and affecting influences in the guitarist’s being.

Rodney Jones is a deeply reflective young man, perhaps even erudite. Instead of a dissertation, however, he delivers feeling. One listen and you can feel the warmth and profound depth he coerces from a hollow body of wood and six strings. He’s got soul. He’s just serious about it.

He’s got credentials too. Mr. Jones has a particular gift for getting heard in good company. He’s waxed four sides with Maceo Parker, got down to the get down with James Brown and fired up some of Jimmy McGriff’s funkiest moments. He’s also played it straight with Dizzy Gillespie, Ruth Brown and Lena Horne and, for Blue Note, arranged Ellington in a classical setting for the conductor Simon Rattle.

The “Soul Manifesto” is delivered by nothing less than a dream team of soul men, all especially chosen by the guitarist for the occasion. These guys are rooted in soul credibility. Rodney puts it this way, “they can reflect, reach deep and get you shakin’ your money maker too.” Call it a truth summit. These cats couldn’t fake a note if they tried.

Up front, Jones is joined by former James Brown sax man (and the guitarist’s former boss) Maceo Parker, jousting on wings of fire – for the first time ever – with Arthur Blythe, whose rich, soulful flights of freedom first touched Jones when they worked together in Chico Hamilton’s group.

Rodney’s rhythm engine here is positively nuclear: organist Lonnie Smith, who Rodney first jammed with in Harlem when the guitarist was a mere 15, bassist Lonnie Plaxico, Rodney’s bassist of choice and, of course, His Majesty, King Breaks, Idris Muhammad, who laid down the sound, who “originated the stuff.”

There’s no posturing among these men. This is truth telling. They reflect on several influential moments in Rodney Jones’s life, from Manu DiBango’s “Soul Makossa” and Bill Withers’s “Ain’t No Sunshine” to Mal Waldron’s lovely “Soul Eyes” and lay down their own heavy-duty grooves in the bookending “Groove Bone” and the bluesy  “One Turnip Green” (inspired by Rodney’s guitar heroes: Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, Nathen Page, Barney Kessel, George Benson and Wes Montgomery).

But just listen. Feel it. A few bars is all it takes. Rodney’s three-year-old daughter, Cara, heard it right away. From the first few notes, she jumped up, danced around and said out loud – this is the soul manifesto! That’s what it’s really all about, isn’t it? 

Douglas Payne