|Tribute To John Coltrane
The Jazz Machine Celebrates Elvin Jones’ Soulmate
Concert Review by: Bryan Zoran
Venue: Blue Note (New York, New York, USA)
September 17, 2002 - The second week of Elvin Jones’ two-week 75th Birthday Festival paid homage to his late, great friend and musical soulmate John Coltrane. Together they expanded the jazz canon. Gathered for the honor of playing tenor saxophone this evening were Ravi Coltrane, John’s son, and Mark Shim, two fresh, inventive soloists. The spotlight was on Shim early. One of Elvin’s originals, E.J. Blues, started off the night. The band came out roarin’. Mark really stretched out on this composition. Solos followed by Ravi, Carlos McKinney on piano and Reginald Veal on bass. Everyone was shining bright. Reginald’s solo was particularly engaging.
Mark Shim was then featured on the ballad You’ve Changed. A beautiful tone and fluent phrasing characterized his effort. Elvin’s brushwork is always a treat. Two days earlier on the ballad In a Sentimental Mood he used the brushes like mallets, pounding out the rhythm. This evening he showcased his genius with the brushes in a quieter manner.
Ravi was featured on the next number and went deep into the musical caverns of one of his father’s creations entitled Wise One. His spiritual solo soared. He used this vehicle to transport us on a musical journey, exploring the realms of its improvisational possibilities, mesmerizing those in attendance in a series of escalating stages. Carlos McKinney’s solo was empathetically contemplative and extremely percussive. The only Coltrane number the band played this set provided another great avenue for Elvin to showcase his unequaled supremacy behind the kit.
The Japanese folk song Doll of the Bride has become a signature for Elvin Jones’ Jazz Machine. Before the song Elvin told the story of how he was introduced to this wonderful composition over the sound system of a restaurant in Japan. Carlos McKinney played a unique introduction, using the strings on the inside of the piano. Also noteworthy was the bass solo by Reginald Veal. He did many creative things, not the least of which was making the bass sound like a sitar.
A crisp rendition of It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing closed the first night of Elvin’s second week at The Blue Note. Elvin Jones is a Benevolent Spirit, a Jazz Ambassador. One of his defining characteristics is how much enjoyment he gets from playing. He emanates a love for his craft. This rubs off on his bandmates and the audience. Besides his unbelievable technique, this is what makes Elvin so special. He has been quoted as saying “Playing is my function in life”.