Recording Date: Apr 8, 1978-Apr 14, 1982
With the exception of one number ("House That Love Built") from 1978 that matches drummer Elvin Jones with the reeds of Frank Foster and Pat LaBarbera, guitarist Roland Prince and bassist Andy McCloud, this CD reissue focuses on an unusual and generally successful reunion session. Drummer Jones and pianist McCoy Tyner have not recorded together that often since leaving John Coltrane's Quartet in late 1965. With Pharoah Sanders (who was part of the reason they departed) on tenor, bassist Richard Davis in the late Jimmy Garrison's spot, and guitarist Jean-Paul Bourelly an added wild card, the musicians avoid Coltrane tunes in favor of newer originals and the standard "Sweet and Lovely." Sanders sounds very much like late-1950s Coltrane; Bourelly is a bit out of place, and Tyner easily takes solo honors. An interesting but not overly memorable outing that was originally cut for the Japanese Trio label and made available in the U.S. by the now-defunct Black-Hawk company.
-Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
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However much the 1982 reunion of Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner provided an enjoyable opportunity for Tyner to tap back into the energy of the drummer he worked with for five years in the John Coltrane Quartet, it also provided Jones the opportunity to play with someone whose concepts Were as advanced as his own, and who would not only allow him to play without restrictions, but would inspire him to greater heights.
Sadly, that had not always been the case with Jones' solo career. While some of his first post-Coltrane record dates had united Jones with musicians who brought out his best, such as his trio albums on Blue Note with saxophonist Joe Farrell and bassist Jimmy Garrison, or the Heavy Sounds album on Impulse with bassist Richard Davis, most of Jones' recordings in the 70s featured young players who were taking much more from Jones than they were giving him in return. And Jones, one of the great accompanists of all time, was careful never to overpower his sidemen. As a result, the albums were often notable only for Jones' drum solos, with the performance of the ensemble sounding weak by comparison.
In an interview for a 1992 Modern Drummer article, Jones told me of one such situation, a 1971 record date with a pick-up group that did not understand his concepts despite the fact that it was comprised of excellent players. "Not everyone knows how to follow a drum solo," he explained, pointing out that however abstract his solos may sound, he always adheres to the compositional form. "Sometimes one has to use devices to bring the group back together. My device at that particular time was a roll and a vigorous nodding of the head."
No rolls were necessary to cue the band during the sessions heard on this disc, as the players were fully attuned to Jones' style, and any nodding of heads was in affirmation of the quality of the music being made. But because the resulting album was originally issued in Japan on Trio Records, and available in the U.S. on Blackhawk Records for only a very brief time, many American listeners were unaware that Jones was still capable of producing recordings that matched the quality of his work with Coltrane. For those who heard of Love and Peace at the time of its original release, the album became a highly sought-after collector's item.
The musicians assembled for the recording included Richard Davis, whose bass-and-drums duets with Jones on such tracks as Summertime from the aforementioned Heavy Sounds album and Fitter Pat from last year's Evidence reissue Elvin Jones: Very Rare (ECD 22053) demonstrated the high level of empathy between the two players, and whose ability to maintain absolutely solid time while playing imaginative rhythmic phrases made him the perfect complement to Jones' polyrhythmic time keeping.
On tenor saxophone was Pharoah Sanders, who had been a frequent guest with the Coltrane Quartet and whose shrieking improvisations that combined the soulfulness of R&B with the spirit of free jazz put him in the same class of jazz innovators as Jones and Tyner.
Guitarist Jean-Paul Bourelly was a member of Jones' touring band during the early '80s. In a 1982 Modern Drummer interview, Jones talked of the benefits of musicians working together for protracted periods of time, saying that Bourelly was one of the few to make that kind of commitment "He wants to have that experience, gain that knowledge, and he's willing to spend that time to develop that discipline," Jones told me. As these tracks clearly show, Bourelly and Jones developed a level of interplay that allowed them to support as well as challenge each other.
And then there was McCoy Tyner, a pianist who always sounded like no one but himself, no matter what the setting, and who was cited in the New Grove's Dictionary of Jazz as being "a major influence in the adoption in jazz of quartel and quintal harmonies, modes and pentatonic scales, and African rhythmic elements." Whenever he and Jones played together, Coltrane's spirit seemed to be sitting in.
The unity of purpose of these players is obvious from the very beginning of Little Rock's Blues, a Sanders composition. No introductory vamp is needed to set the mood; the players hit the ground running from the very first note with Davis, Tyner and Sanders each offering concise solo statements and Jones and Bourelly jousting with four-bar phrases.
Jones kicks off another Sanders composition, Hip Jones, with one of his patented rolling-and-tumbling solos, which can defy accurate transcription but that you can always tap your foot to. Sanders imitates Jones' rhythmic intensity during his own solo, constantly kicked and prodded by the drums. Tyner contributes his own concept of rhythmic space during his solo, after which Jones bashes and crashes his way through a second solo, building tension to a climax that is released by a bass and guitar vamp that sets up the final melody statement.
Jones displays his sensitive side on the ballad Korina. After some swishing cymbal rolls behind the short piano intro, Jones keeps his brushes very much in the background behind Sanders, but gradually starts slapping double-time accents behind the piano, steadily increasing the rhythmic drive of the tune without ever taking away from its lyricism.
Tyner's composition For Tomorrow features a 3/4 time signature that achieves its own tension and release through contrasting sections that have a waltz-like smoothness with polyrhythmic sections in which Davis plays a dotted-quarter pulse against Jones' broken-up three feel. Jones reinforces the structure of the piece throughout, alternating cymbal-based timekeeping with rolling waves of sound produced on snare drum and tom-toms.
You can sometimes tell more about musicians from the way they play a standard than from an original tune, as you can contrast their approach to everyone else who has played the composition. Such is the case with Sweet and Lovely, performed in a trio setting by Tyner, Jones and Davis, who start out sounding remarkably traditional, but soon move into modern conceptions without abandoning the tune's original essence. Note how Jones and Tyner's telepathy allowed them to trade phrases without confining themselves to a rigid four-bar structure.
Sanders' uptempo composition Origin features some Latin-flavored drumming from Jones that sparks energetic solos from Sanders and Tyner over Davis' grooving bass and Bourelly's sparse comping.
This reissue also contains a live version of House That Love Built, recorded during the same 1978 Elvin Jones Quintet concert in Japan that produced the live tracks heard on Very Rare. The performance is a showcase for saxophonist Frank Foster, who wrote the tune and who shared many a bandstand and record date with Jones.
Listening to the level of musicianship on these tracks, one wonders what heights a band composed of Jones, Tyner, Davis and Sanders could have reached had they stayed together a few years, working out ideas on the bandstand night after night and recording at frequent intervals. But at the time this album was recorded, each was a leader in his own right, and the economic realities of jazz touring made a permanent band impossible. We can only speculate on what could have been, but thankfully we have these recordings to show what actually was for two memorable days.
- Rick Mattingly