Half Note Records: Elvin Jones and Jeff "Tain" Watts

Mark F. Turner By

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Two outstanding live recordings by two dynamic drummers.

Elvin Jones Jazz Machine
The Truth: Heard Live at the Blue Note
Half Note Records

The spirit of the esteemed and beloved drummer Elvin Jones will continue in the hearts of fans and musicians in spite of his untimely death in 2004. The new release The Truth: Heard Live at the Blue Note documents the master percussionist's 72nd birthday celebration at New York's Blue Note jazz club in September 1999. It is a performance that captured Elvin's electric presence and explosive musicianship. Backed by his Jazz Machine with a sextet of young inspired players including special guest, saxophonist Michael Brecker; the recording is truly special.

The set features Elvin supported by a four piece horn section with piano and bass that opens with the swinging "E.J.'s Blues" featuring a boisterous solo by trumpeter Darren Barrett followed by Elvin's powerful and lengthy drum solo. Trombonist Robin Eubanks is next to answer the call on "Straight No Chaser" with a throaty solo followed by strong piano and drums solos.

Things mellow out nicely on "Body and Soul" with a beautiful tenor solo by Brecker held together by the strong bass of Gene Perla as Elvin delicately channels the rhythm with nice brush and cymbal work. The title piece "Truth" and "A Lullaby of Itsugo Village" were both penned by Elvin's wife Keiko Jones and convey soulful messages with intense saxophone spots by Antoine Roney and Michael Brecker.

The crowd cheers the band on as the recording concludes with two equally powerful numbers. The introspective "Wise One" features Elvin in a trio setting with brilliant work by pianist Carlos McKinney. The band swings out gloriously on "Three Card Molly" which is donned with a huge horn arrangement, a bright trumpet solo and concludes with another kinetic drum solo by the great one.

Jeff "Tain" Watts
Detained at the Blue Note
Half Note Records

Jeff "Tain" Watts who initially gained notoriety with the Marsalis brothers is one of today's most exhilarating and proficient drummers having contributed on numerous recordings and his own on 2002's Bar Talk. With a hip and modern edge Tain's quintet with special guest alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett provided cool and heated jazz in February 2004 on Detained at Blue Note.

Starting with a cover of "107 Steps" by pop artist Bjork, Tain and band members: rising saxophonist Marcus Strickland, bassist Eric Revis, guitarist David Gilmore, and pianist Dave Kikoski, get the club jumping with each player giving lively solos as Tain unselfishly provides the fireworks behind the vamp in his usual percussive manner.

The swinging and singing groove of "JC is The Man" is next as the band weaves their instruments expertly in and out of the contagious melody. Strickland's warm tenor permeates the melody with a rich tone as the syncopation changes smoothly from swing to funk literally at the drop of Tain's sticks.

If things were just getting warmed up then saxophonist Kenny Garrett literally burns down the house on "Mr. J.J" with a combustible solo that is marked with an intensity and control that few others players today posess. Weighing in at nearly twenty minutes is the impressive "Sigmund Groid" with its deceptively smooth melody that gives way to an exhaustive solo by Garrett as the band holds down the soulful backbone which fades out to a whisper.

It's all about fun, as Tain surprises the crowd with more than capable vocal skills on "Like The Rose" which begins with a sophisticated piano solo by Kikoski. Tain's crooning leads the band into a catchy melody mingled with funk and reggae that culminates with an amped-up guitar solo by Gilmore and Tain playfully singing the closing verse.

Both of these recordings have great sound quality and capture the spirit of live jazz on many levels. Highly recommended.

The Truth: Heard Live at the Blue Note

Personnel: Elvin Jones - drums; Antoine Roney, Michael Brecker - saxophones; Robin Eubanks- trombone; Darren Barrett - trumpet; Carlos McKinney - piano; Gene Perla - bass.

Tracks: E.J.'s Blues; Straight No Chaser; Body and Soul; Truth; A Lullaby of Itsugo Village; Wise One; Three Card Molly

Detained at the Blue Note

Personnel: Jeff "Tain" Watts - drums; Kenny Garrett - alto sax; Marcus Strickland - tenor sax; David Kikoski - piano, synthesizer; Eric Revis - bass; David Gilmore - guitar.

Tracks: 107 Steps; JC is the Man; Mr. JJ; Sigmund Groid; ...Like The Rose.

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