05 April 2012


Or: Giving 'em the hi-hat...

Still trying to get my head around this one. Elvin Jones as a hippie-slaying gunslinger. About as weird as Sonny Liston's cameo in Head, except way more cool. Never heard of the film before, but now that I run a search on it I find that it was written by members of the Firesign Theatre, and that they tried (but failed) to get Ginger Baker to be a part of it. Which means that there could've been a interesting high-noon showdown in the works, had all gone as originally planned.

There were a number of tunes on those Coltrane Impulse jawns where Jones's work propelled the thing -- deftly nudged it forward, or upward -- like nobody's biz...

And of course there was "Alabama," which was penned in response to the Birmingham church bombing; where Coltrane blows a stoical and circumspect blues, and there's a big hole (as in a harrowing, volumes-speaking pause) in the middle of the thing, with Jones and Tyner and Garrison brewing up a deeply impressionistic backing that evokes storm clouds amassing on the horizon -- clouds stacking up to ominous height, their bellies swelling and darkening and flickering with the promise of lightning.

I seem to recall a track or two (on the live, in-the-club releases) that I couldn't believe Impulse chose to include -- where things just weren't falling together for the band on that particular song on that particular night, and Jones was the only one holding things together throughout.

All of which reminds me that there's a big part of my record collection that's been parked and collecting dust for a few years now, and which I'm overdue for revisiting.


David K Wayne said...

Elvin is God!

His solos on every version of 'Africa' are awesome.

Greyhoos said...

Back in Chicago, the southside neighborhood record shops had a lot of those post-Coltrane McCoy Tyner LPs in the used bins. A friend of mine told me that some of Tyner's frontman joints were quite good. The same friend was also a huge Elvin Jones fan. I should've gotten him to make me a list of the better Tyner & Jones titles to seek out.

David K Wayne said...

I'm a bit lukewarm about Tyner (the 'straight' one in Coltrane's Quartet), but the stuff he did with Jones is excellent.

I could listen to Elvin do 12 minute solos any day of the week!

Greyhoos said...

By "straight," what are you referring to? Stylistically?

Only one I have by him is "Extensions," which features Jones, Ron Carter, Alice C, & with Gary Bartz and Wayne Shorter on reeds. It stacks up as you would expect from that line-up, quite nicely.

David K Wayne said...

I should have said "relatively straight" - compared with the other three, he kind of ended up 'outside' the dynamics of the whole thing, a 'trad' centre of calm (a bit like Herbie Hancock's role in Miles Davis' Quintet). With few exceptions, Tyner's early solo stuff is pretty straightforward compared to other big names in jazz from the same period.

Greyhoos said...

Right. 'Swhat I thought you meant. And agreed. Tho' I might not agree with the Hancock comparison. I'm inclined to say that if Hancock sounded a bit "conservatorial" or trad on those Miles discs, it may have been because of his age at the time. Wasn't he, like, only about 17 or 18 when Miles put him in the band?

David K Wayne said...

Yeah he liked 'em young so he could push 'em around easier! Davis did strike me as having 'ego issues'.

Greyhoos said...


Anecdote I once read about the recording of Bitches Brew:

Miles distributes the sheet music to the band members. John McLaughlin takes one look at it...

McLaughlin: "Wow! I have to play all of that?"
Miles:[dryly] "Yeah."
McLaughlin: "Hmmm, that's going to take a little time work out."
Miles: "Is that a fact?"

David K Wayne said...

And Davis to Coltrane:

"Why don't you try taking the fucking horn out of your mouth?"

Coltrane moved on to greener pastures shortly after.

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