Elvin Jones Jazz Machine | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Elvin Jones Jazz Machine


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The Eveready rabbit has nothing on Elvin Jones: creator of a swirling, hyperkinetic percussion style as demanding mentally as it is physically, he's still going as if his 65th birthday were a far-off report instead of a recent echo (last September, actually). One way to trace the history of jazz drumming involves tracking the beat, which moved from the bass drum (in the swing era) to the ride cymbal (in bebop) to--in Elvin's music--everywhere. By the time he joined John Coltrane's quartet in 1960, Elvin had begun to perfect a style that spread the beat all around the various components of the trap set; imagine these components as the interrelating lobes of a single brain and you're in the ballpark. As a result the entire drum set, not just this cymbal or that tom-tom, seems to breathe his irresistible and even hypnotic pulse, which has as much to do with the deep swing of the early blues pianists as with the towering modal structures erected by Coltrane. Three generations of drummers have leaned heavily on this framework, but few have matched the underlying architecture of Jones's playing--the internal rhythms, rhymes, and filigrees that transform his accompaniment work into coincident solos. This weekend he unveils a built-out version of his "Jazz Machine": featuring future trumpet star Nicholas Payton and Chicago's own Willie Pickens on piano, it's grown to a sextet with the unusual addition of flutist (!) Kent Jordan. Friday through Sunday, Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4846.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marc PoKempner.

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