In the years following the death of John Coltrane, the drum innovations of Elvin Jones have been validated time and time again as this ’60s firebrand’s style matured and mellowed–without any loss of primal fire or swing. For a musician whose work is based so strongly on fiery interaction and telepathic anticipation, the live forum is perhaps the most felicitous platform to experience this most gifted of improvisers.
Yet oddly enough, given the scope and range of his work–and the number of fine musicians who’ve come out of Elvin’s Jazz Machine–it’s odd that there are not more documents of Elvin’s work in progress, a la Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Thankfully, recent collaborations with producer Matthias Winckelmann’s Enja label have served to illustrate the consistency and quality of his working bands. If IT DON’T MEAN A THING stands out from the pack, it is by virtue of its repertoire (classic tunes by Strayhorn and Monk), a canny mixture of young turks (Nicholas Payton, Delfeayo Marsalis) and wise veterans (Sonny Fortune, Cecil McBee) and the power and succinctness of the blowing.
Bassist McBee’s singular presence seems to energize the drummer (check out their loose interplay in introducing the title tune, and how they fire up a classic shuffle beat behind pianist Willie Pickens). McBee offers Jones the kind of virtuoso support he needs to stoke his rhythmic furnace. Most surprising is the presence of Kevin Mahogany, a delightful vocalist who never descends to cheap cliches or ornamentation. His rich, fluid tenor imparts the sort of gravity Billy Strayhorn’s bittersweet “Lush Life” deserves, and his vibrant scatting on “Bopsy” inspire some of this date’s most swinging solos.
01. Green Chimneys
02. Lullaby of Itsugo Village, A
03. It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing
04. Lush Life
05. Zenzo’s Spirit
06. A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing / Ask Me Now
08. Fatima’s Waltz
09. Change Is Gonna Come, A
Super High Material CD
Label d’origine : ENJA RECORDS