ANCIENT TO THE FUTURE Jones’s music is older than old — it’s ancient.
To call Darius Jones’s music avant-garde seems almost beside the point. In its way, it’s older than old — it’s ancient. The 31-year-old Jones hails from rural Virginia, but he’s lived in Brooklyn since 2004. He came to Outpost 186 on October 19 with the rest of the trio from his debut as a leader, Man’ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing) (AUM Fidelity): pianist Cooper-Moore (another native Virginian, also now in New York) and Bostonian drummer Rakalam Bob Moses.
Jones likes churchy old blues, boogie-woogie, and the kind of folkish tunes that Albert Ayler used to write. He also shares Ayler’s moaning, wide-vibrato tone, if not the sainted saxophonist’s taste for single-minded, iron-jawed shrieking. But Jones has his own dignified way of testifying — big, long tones that patiently build to skirling figures and ululating shouts.
The casual intimacy of Outpost 186 supported the band’s whole ancient-to-the future vibe. There was joking from Cooper-Moore and Moses about their majority over Jones (they’re both 60ish), and Cooper-Moore played his self-made diddley bow — an electrified single-string instrument about the length of a broom handle that harks back to Africa. He alternated playing it with drumsticks and his fingers, “fretting” with a stick in his right hand while he slapped at it with his left, plucked and pulled the string with his fingers, or rapped it with two sticks at a time. It was alternately a bass, a guitar, a drum, a jug in a jug band.
The first set began with “Roosevelt,” the clarion prelude from the CD, Jones stating the full-toned melody, Cooper-Moore setting up a drone with two sticks, Moses splashing freely on cymbals. The next tune, “Forgive Me,” was limned by Cooper-Moore’s Satie-like spare chordal melody. When Jones came in for this one, his tone was more modulated, with a Jackie McLean–like tart focus and power. Coooper-Moore’s solo moved outside quickly, splashing up and down the keyboard in Cecil Taylor fashion. “Cry Out,” meanwhile, was anchored by Cooper Moore’s boogie-woogie piano figure. Throughout the night, Moses was a mother of invention, both anchor and goad, playing free-pulse rhythms with sharp bottom kicks and a beautiful array of top colors.
Jones, bespectacled and wry, introduced “My Baby” as a song about his mother and cautioned the crowd, “Don’t get into it too much, though — like, ‘Was she abusive?’ ” By the last tune of the set, “Chasing the Ghost,” Cooper-Moore was going full tilt on the diddley bow and Moses was an engine of running swing. Jones went from full-throated skewed figures to soft oscillations. At a couple of points, he took the horn out of his mouth and shouted for real.