JJ 04/93: Elvin Jones – Jazz Machine Live In Japan / Youngblood

Thirty years ago Graham Colombé witnessed, in Joshua Redman, Nicholas Payton and Javon Jackson, another manifestation of the new conservatism. First published in Jazz Journal April 1993


After John Coltrane, who was Elvin Jones to play with? These CDs provide two different solu­tions recorded 14 years apart – neither of them completely satis­factory. The Japanese concert offers a high-energy set with both reedmen showing a strong Col­trane influence, Foster having apparently abandoned the style familiar from his Basie days.

Jones’s unending barrage of accents and cross-rhythms behind the soloists is highly effec­tive and propulsive but his several solos are disappointing. They seem to be extracts from a continuous solo heard inside his head and lack structure and development. The musician who impressed me most was Roland Prince, whose individual sound and style surely merit more fame than he has yet received.

Who will be the most famous of the three young men who form the front line of last year’s Enja quintet? My money would be on the 19-year-old Payton from New Orleans or the 24-year-old son of Dewey Redman. The surprising thing about this album however is that the oldest man (Jones at 64) is the least conventional player, his oblique style still more com­plex than what most other drum­mers are doing today.

In spite of the possibilities offered by the lack of a piano player (the notes refer to Mraz’s bass as ‘the main chordal instrument’!) the material and solos are based on regular changes with Payton hinting at some of Clifford Brown’s clarity while Redman and Jackson have listened to such players as Dexter Gordon and Hank Mobley as well as Coltrane. This results some­times in a mismatch between the complex drum part and relatively simple solo lines (particularly Jackson’s) and Mraz doesn’t seem a powerful enough player for this situation, but there’s a great deal of good music in this further demonstration of the new conservatism.

[Live In Japan] Keiko’s Birthday March; Bessie’s Blues; Antigua; E.J. Blues; A Love Supreme (70.03)
Pat LaBarbera (ss/ts); Frank Foster (ts); Roland Prince (elg); Andy McCloud (b); Elvin Jones (d). Yomiuri Hall, Tokyo, April 8 & 9, 1978.
(Konnex KCD 5041)
[Younglood] (5) Not Yet; Have You Seen Elveen?; (3) Angel Eyes; (1) Ding-A-Ling-A-Ling; (5) Lady Luck; The Biscuit Man; (4) Body And Soul; (5) Strange; (2) My Romance; (5) Youngblood (63.64)
(1) Elvin Jones (d). Englewood Cliffs, April 20 & 21, 1992. (2) add George Mraz (b). (3) add Joshua Redman (ts). (4) Nicholas Payton (t) replaces Redman. (5) add Javon Jackson, Redman (ts).
(Enja ENJ 7051-2)