Elvin Jones: Revival – Live At Pookie’s Pub

Previously unreleased set has the drummer leading Joe Farrell, Billy Greene, Larry Young and Wilbur Little at a small New York venue in 1967

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It is difficult to believe that these previously unreleased recordings were kicking around for decades without a record company taking note of their significance. The music was captured by jazz enthusiast Bob Falesch; then the original tapes lay dormant, despite the best efforts of Zev Feldman to find a home for release. Eventually in 2018, Feldman found himself working at Blue Note, where the label unsurprisingly showed some enthusiasm for both the music and its historic significance.

Pookies’s Pub was a small bar whose owner decided to introduce live music without caring much about the genre involved. For something like six months Elvin Jones held down a residency at the venue, which happened to be across the road from the Half Note in NYC. Clearly the bar amounted to a means to an end for the great drummer, who was just starting life as a leader. He needed a permanent gig to further his ambitions, even if the nightly audiences were of the “one man and his dog” variety. (Although it appears that the audience was occasionally augmented by musicians taking a break from their labours at the Half Note.)

We encounter Elvin at his thunderous and creative best, indicating that he probably wasn’t in prisoner-taking mood during his stay. He lays down a constant, urgent backdrop for his fellow musicians, who react positively. Farrell in particular performs like a man inspired, whether he is going the Coltrane route on such numbers as his own 13 Avenue B or taking up his flute for Softly As In A Morning Sunrise.

Several of the tunes run for over 16 minutes and at some of the tempos involved, must have demanded impressive endurance. Even the estimable Farrell seems to run out of ideas on the hard-swinging, bluesy version of Ferde Grofe’s On The Trail.

The relatively obscure Billy Greene holds his own in this exalted company, even if the piano needed a good tuning and Wilbur Little is his normal reliable self (not faint praise in his case). But it is the leader who ultimately dominates proceedings, his snare-drum work a constant blur of sound, the ride cymbal insistent throughout, the bass drum dropping those appropriate bombs. When soloing, he demands attention – never failing to engender excitement, fully exploring the whole kit.

Elvin Jones admirers will want to hear to this fresh-sounding music. Those who felt he played too loud might need to go elsewhere.

Discography
CD1: (1) Keiko’s Birthday March; (2) Gingerbread Boy: (1) 13 Avenue B; (3) My Funny Valentine; (1) M. E. (74.52)
CD2: (1) On The Trail; (3) Softly As In A Morning Sunrise; (1) Raunchy Rita; Oleo (58.18)

(1) Jones (d); Joe Farrell (ts); Billy Greene (p); Wilbur Little (b). NYC, 28-30 July 1967. (2) as (1) but omit Greene, add Larry Young (p). (3) as (1) but Farrell (f).
Blue Note Records