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JAZZ REVIEW : Elvin Jones Is Still Able to Drum Up Gifted Sidemen

April 15, 1993|LEONARD FEATHER

Aside from his reputation as a powerful and innovative drummer, Elvin Jones has played a vital role as leader of various small groups that have brought recognition to many gifted sidemen. On this level, the sextet he introduced Tuesday at Catalina Bar & Grill is particularly notable.

The trumpeter Nicholas Payton, at 19, displays a degree of maturity rare in men twice his age. Playing a 1932 Hoagy Carmichael standard, "New Orleans" (Payton was born there), he blended drama, intelligent structure and the ability to move seamlessly from tension to a laid-back simplicity.

The other invaluable member of Jones' current unit is Kent Jordan. On the opening tune, a simplistic Monk riff number called "Green Chimneys," he played piccolo, bringing creativity and technical finesse to an instrument seldom used successfully in jazz.

With Jones in the rhythm section is Brad Jones (no relation), a bassist who made extensive use of chords, and who in the final work played the closing passage with a bow. This extended piece, based on a traditional Japanese folk song, took up almost half of the long set, with solos accorded to every member. Greg Tardy on tenor sax and Willie Pickens on piano played a major part in setting a mood that built slowly and, toward the end, chaotically, in a work full of unpredictable twists and turns, with Elvin Jones making dynamic use of mallets before switching to sticks.

Taking in everything from a quasi-mambo to Asian exotica, the composition kept musicians and audience alike in a consistent state of tension and excitement--qualities that have marked so much of Jones' work in a long and distinguished career.

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