The second volume of last sessions from Elmo Hope was recorded about a year before he passed away, but the criminally underrated jazz pianist is in top form with two different trios, recorded in March and May of 1966. Playing adaptations or modifications of standards, Hope wittily wanders through these extended takes, snatching bits and pieces of melody like grabbing for gold rings on a merry-go-round, searching for and discovering gemstones of different values and opaqueness. It's a shame he left us, because this recording displays so much brilliance and originality, cupped within the stretched-out modern mainstream of jazz. Ten-minute versions of "I Love You" in a snappy but breezy light calypso with a loosely swinging mid-section, the riki-tiki à la Duke Ellington, oriental (as opposed to Afro-Cuban) flavored "Night in Tunisia," which is not played safe by any means, and the slow "Elmo's Blues," recalling Mary Lou Williams in churchy refrains, are all compelling and listenable from start to finish. John Ore is the bassist throughout, while Philly Joe Jones and Clifford Jarvis split drumming duties, the latter on a suggestive, somewhat modal take of "Somebody Loves Me" with Hope's clever, driving-deep chords off the melodic path. Jarvis -- 25 years old at this time -- is feeling out the swing of "Bertha My Dear," an adaptation of Thelonious Monk's "Ruby My Dear" for Hope's wife, a budding pianist in her own right; it's a slow and evocative love song. Jones is ever masterful, crossing bar lines with his extrapolated brushes on "I Love You," and contributing to Hope's stylized, sideways blues during "Stellations" -- perhaps riffing on "Constellation" or "Stella by Starlight" in an Erroll Garner/Oscar Peterson/Monk discourse. Elmo Hope released far too few albums, and after his death, hardly anything has been unearthed. This recording and Vol. I, both issued by Inner City Records on CD in 2008, stand as his last will and testament, and both come highly recommended for their sustainable quality and purity.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos