Bill Cosby introduced Elvin Jones as “75 years young,” quipping, “I don’t want to see him when he turns 85. It’s gonna be all ballads!” Complimentary champagne was flowing for Jones’ opening-night gala, and the vet drummer took centerstage as a propelling force, a proficient timekeeper and a supremely inventive and rhythmically aware soloist.
“Hello Brother” featured the Jazz Machine and guest soloist Wynton Marsalis in a romping opening statement. The group lost little time in demonstrating both unison and clean supportive playing. The velvety trombone of Delfeayo Marsalis is broad and expansive, and the tandem tenor sax playing of Pat LaBarbera and Mark Sims appeared to float effortlessly over the rhythm of Gerald Cannon’s bold bass, Anthony Wonsey’s piano chords and the supreme cushioning of Jones’ percussive statements.
Marsalis offered a warm, full and unmannered solo on the timeless Vernon Duke tune “I Can’t Get Started,” with Jones adding thickly carpeted support.
Centerpiece of the set was a quartet setting for John Coltrane’s “Resolution.” Marsalis racing solo was a dizzying display of pyrotechnical finesse and daring, bringing about a fevered audience response. Jones, a formidable Trane disciple, rose to the heights here. His technical facility, taste and touch have become a trademark. The drummer displayed a musical dialogue with Marsalis that revealed humor and subtlety. His imaginative ideas seem effortless, and his strength and energy, boundless. When he swings, he swings hard and his figures are intense, heated and complex.
Closer found the ensemble and Marsalis merging for the traditional Japanese fishing song “Solan Buschi.” Here Jones displayed the height of finesse, absorbing every rhythmic nuance of his colleagues. He truly underscores the give and take spirit of chamber jazz.
The aud was distinctively peppered with an impressive assemblage of jazz drummers, including Charli Persip, Jack DeJohnette, Nasheet Waits, Adam Nussbaum, Victor Lewis, Jimmy Cobb and Bill Stewart. Praising Jones, Persip, skedded for a one-niter fronting Supersound at Birdland,made an acute observation: “They were two of kind; Philly Joe Jones and Elvin!”
Jones thanked his cheering guests for the celebration, adding, “Music is the catalyst for people to love one another.”
The party is ongoing with guests Michael Brecker (Sept. 11-l5) and Ravi Coltrane (today through Sept. 22).