JJ 02/89: The Elvin Jones Jazz Machine

First published Jazz Journal, February 1989


Well played, sensibly programmed and beautifully recorded though it is, this album is something of a disappointment. The trouble with the present recording is summed up by the title of the LaBarbera composition which closes Side One: nobody is coasting but nor is anyone suggesting anything that was not exhaustively examined by the classic Coltrane quartet of the early and mid-sixties. It is of course perfectly within the nature of jazz history that yesterday’s innovations should pass into today’s mainstream, but I find it disheartening nevertheless to hear such technically assured musicians as LaBarbera and Stuart turning hard-won conventions into the merely conventional. LaBarbera is a composer of some merit, with the evocative Little Lady being particularly noteworthy, but to suggest as he does in a brief liner note that his piece Remembrance reminded me of some of the things Elvin did with Coltrane is something of an understatement.

The moments here which avoid the Elvin Jones with the Coltrane Brothers syndrome are largely supplied by guitarist Roland Prince, who takes a particularly fine solo on the attractively voiced Giraffe, mixing single string and chordal work with neat logic before moving into an exciting double-time excursion over Elvin’s sure foundation.
Michael Tucker

Giraffe; Section 8; Little Lady; Familiar Ground (21:38) – Kalima; Beatrice; Remembrance (22:15)
Elvin Jones (d); Pat La Barbera (ts/ss); Michael Stuart (ts/ss); Roland Prince (g); Andy McCloud III (b). Stuttgart, 3/4/5, February 1978.
(MPS 15523)