Pat LaBarbera - tenor sax; Ryo Kawasaki - guitar; David Williams - bass; Elvin Jones - drums
Elvin Jones, who gained mythic status during his stint in the John Coltrane Quartet, took the Carnegie Hall stage for this 1976 Newport Jazz Festival concert to a hero's ovation. His current quartet at the time, featuring bassist David Williams, guitarist Ryo Kawasaki and saxophonist Pat LaBarbera, appeared on the bill of this "Tribute to Trane" along with the McCoy Tyner Sextet and the New York Jazz Repertory Company Orchestra led by Andrew White. In bold fashion, Jones and his crew tackled the galvanizing four-part suite from Coltrane's spiritually-charged masterwork, A Love Supreme, which the great drummer had recorded alongside Trane, Tyner and Jimmy Garrison in December of 1964.
Like the original recording of the piece, this version of "Acknowledgement" begins with the bang of a gong and is followed by cymbal washes from Elvin before Williams enters on bass with the familiar four-note motif which structures the entire piece. LaBarbera, who had been with the Buddy Rich Band before joining Elvin's quartet, follows with a titanic tenor solo that taps into that deeply searching quality that Coltrane conveyed on the original recording of the piece. Kawasaki, who was coming off of a collaboration with Gil Evans on The Music of Jimi Hendrix the year before hooking up with Elvin's group, then continues the heightened energy level with a scorching, fleet-fingered guitar solo recalling Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin's inspired rendition of the piece on their 1973 collaborative album, Love Devotion Surrender. Williams next offers an adventurous, unaccompanied bass solo, displaying his virtuosity with the bowing while also quoting from the "Resolution" section of Coltrane's powerful suite. Elvin enters with a show-stopping drum solo, ostensibly recreating the "Pursuance" section, that features all of his signature, thunderous fills and polyrhythmic aplomb. The band returns for a ferocious run through the "Resolution" section of the suite, which features both Kawasaki and LaBarbera wailing with Trane-inspired abandon. LaBarbera then offers a brief quote from "Acknowledgement," the opening movement from Coltrane's A Love Supreme, bringing this memorable Carnegie Hall set to a satisfying conclusion.
Jones had left John Coltrane's classic quartet in March of 1966 (a year before Coltrane's death) and had forged a career as a bandleader in his own right in the subsequent ten years, touring and recording in both small and large group configurations. Approaching his 49th birthday at the time of this Carnegie Hall performance, Elvin was definitely on top of his game in fueling the heated proceedings here.
A bona fide Hall of Fame drummer, Elvin Ray Jones was born on September 9, 1927 in Pontiac, Michigan. With his brothers Hank on piano and Thad on trumpet, the Jones brothers emerged on Detroit's jazz scene in the late 1940s. Elvin became the house drummer at the Bluebird Inn, where he backed such visiting jazz greats as Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, Wardell Grey and Miles Davis. After moving to New York in 1955, he began working with the likes of Charles Mingus, Bud Powell, the Pepper Adams-Donald Byrd Quintet, Art Farmer, J.J. Johnson and Sonny Rollins. Following a six-month stint with Miles Davis, Jones joined John Coltrane's group, first appearing on the sax great's 1960 Atlantic album, Coltrane Jazz. With McCoy Tyner on piano and Jimmy Garrison on bass, they represented one of the most formidable groups in jazz during the '60s, releasing a string of such important recordings as Ballads, Live at the Village Vanguard, Impressions, Crescent and A Love Supreme. During the '60s, Jones also played on several important Blue Note recordings by the likes of Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Grant Green, Joe Henderson and Andrew Hill. In 1971, Jones played the character Job Cain in the highly impressionistic Hollywood film Zachariah, appearing as a gunslinger/drummer.
As a leader, Jones recorded prolifically through the '80s and '90s for several labels, including Enja, PM, Vanguard, Denon, Storyville, Evidence and Landmark. He also toured frequently with his Jazz Machine, whose ranks over time included such musicians as saxophonists Dave Liebman, Joe Farrell, George Coleman, Pat LaBarbera, Sonny Fortune and Ravi Coltrane, guitarist Ryo Kawasaki, pianist Willie Pickens, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, and bassists Richard Davis and Chip Jackson, among many others. He remained active into the 2000s and died of a heart attack on May 18, 2004 at age 76.
-Written by Bill Milkowski