Hitting his first beats like Mike Tyson attacking the heavy bag and generally playing with an energy that galvanized the packed house, drummer Elvin Jones made his first Los Angeles appearance since the early-'80s Tuesday at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood.
Jones--filling in for Louie Bellson, who is recuperating from a kidney illness--is perhaps best known to most fans as the drummer with the John Coltrane Quartet from 1960-66. He has long been, and remains, one of the most potent and powerful trapsmen in jazz, and that quality of power dominated his Jazz Machine's opening set, sometimes overly so. Still, musicality, not bombast, was the ultimate result.
A swaggering post-bop mood, with nods of the Coltrane hat, permeated Jones' performance, and "E.J. Blues" typified the leader's approach. He played on the beat and around the beat, he echoed a tune's melody then tossed it aside, he pushed and pulled the soloist, all in all creating a wonderful sense of mayhem.
Tenor saxophonist Sonny Fortune responded quite favorably to the fomenting brew that Jones, bassist Don Pate and pianist William Henderson developed. Emitting a personal tone that was somewhat obscured due to sound system problems, Fortune offered bravura excursions on "E.J. Blues" and "In a Sentimental Mood," traversing the range of his instrument to offer guttural grunts and ceiling-high shrieks, often stringing short, intricate ideas together into attractive aural tapestries.
Trumpeter Wallace Roney played brief, spirited improvisations on "Island Birdy" and "Blues Minor." Henderson was in fluent form, digging up a series of mellifluous ideas that he delivered with an agile rhythmic flair, obviously at home in Jones' form of fire.
This master of the jazz drums continues through Sunday. On Saturday and Sunday, saxophonist Harold Land replaces Fortune, who has to return to New York for a previously scheduled engagement.