Some might argue that Elvin Jones was, along with Art Blakey, one of the top two hard bop jazz drummers of all time. In the '60s, he cemented his legend on numerous John Coltrane recordings and performances and what might be Jones' most-underrated work also emerged during that decade: trios and quartets under the leadership of guitarist Grant Green featuring organist Larry Young and a trio led by Jones with reedman Joe Farrell and fellow Coltrane alum Jimmy Garrison on bass.
In a new DVD reissue of a 1991 performance in Stuttgart, Germany, Jones and his ensemble walk a fine line between accessibility and experimentation. The date presents a drummer who, at the tender age of 63, still emanated all of the enthusiasm he surely possessed while learning the jazz form back in Detroit with his two musician brothers, pianist Hank and trumpeter Thad, and maintained until his death in 2004.
The youngest Jones pays tribute to the middle brother with a performance of the Thad original "Ray El." That's one of the three lengthy selections offered on the release, where Jones is accompanied by Sonny Fortune (tenor sax, flute), Ravi Coltrane (soprano sax), Willie Pickens (piano) and Chip Jackson (bass). The extremely sweaty Jones doesn't seem he could be any happier than to be playing with this group in front of an enthusiastic audience. With a smile that never leaves his face, Jones obviously isn't a fan of time limits, as his bandmates get boundless space during their solos. This DVD should satisfy Jones fans from both ends of the jazz spectrum; equal parts free and funky, Jazz Machine offers the rare treat of seeing for yourself the Elvin Jones magic once solely confined to your stereo.
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