One of the pleasures of having an extensive jazz collection is that it gives you the opportunity to go back and review the history of jazz in real time, as it was happening. This is particularly the case when you look at old issues of Downbeat or Metronome, or review old liner notes, an art form that began approaching extinction with the advent of the compact disc format. In any case, allow me to share some interesting stuff from my archives.
Downbeat, January 18, 1962
Review: John Coltrane, Africa/Brass, Impulse 6
This record was a departure for Coltrane: The first time he ever played with a brass section. It is now regarded as a classic, rightfully so, particularly the title cut, which makes up the entire first side of the album. At the time, however, the Downbeat reviewer, Martin Williams, didn’t see it that way. He gave it only two stars, out of a possible five. Here’s a sample from the review:
Today we turn things over to some readers. The death of Elvin Jones inspired a couple of people to write: “The loss of Elvin Jones is indeed a blow to the jazz world. I feel lucky to have seen him for the first time in Minneapolis last fall. I was downtown and, to my surprise, The Dakota, formerly a St. Paul jazz club, had opened a club right on Nicollet Mall, just a few blocks from my hotel. I thought they were expanding. As it turned out, they had moved their location. To my surprise, the Grand Opening act was Elvin Jones and The Jazz Machine. Being a swing drummer, Elvin was not at the top of my list of influences, but I knew enough to know that if I ever wanted to see him, this was the time. Read more
I was poring through eBay this morning, preparing today’s update, when my wife came into my office. “Did you see The Times?” she asked. “There’s an article that Coltrane’s drummer died.”
It’s not surprising that The Times would refer to Elvin Jones as “Coltrane’s drummer.” That’s the way many of us came to find his music, on those great Atlantic and Impulse LPs of the early and mid 1960s. Jones’s contributions to Trane’s seminal quartet did more to influence the music than anything he might have accomplished before or since. Jones, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison – they all must have known at the time that Trane was taking them on explorations that were redefining the music.
I turned to my record collection and searched for my favorite Elvin moments from that era. Two albums caught my eye: Africa/Brass, Impulse 6, about which, ironically, I wrote last week; and Coltrane Live at Birdland, Impulse 50. The live LP, particularly the track “Afro-Blue,” exemplifies the way in which Jones drove the quartet to places no other drummer of the era could have taken them. Here’s an excerpt from the original liner notes to this 1963 LP, courtesy of LeRoi Jones: Read more