View Video // 1995 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // March 13th, 2008
Get up offa that scene, like a jazz machine...
Not many people know who Elvin Jones is, but he was one of the creators of the percussion sound for a young jazz saxophonist named John Coltrane, who brought him into his group of musicians. With McCoy Tyner on piano and Jimmy Garrison on bass, the group helped put out records like "A Love Supreme" and "My Favorite Things," and other discs that would become jazz classics in the latter half of the 20th century. After leaving Coltrane's group he contributed on several albums for Tyner, but also formed the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, of which he was the leader, and they toured frequently. The group was full of capable musicians to boot also; Sonny Fortune played with Miles Davis on many occasions, and ironically John's son Ravi Coltrane appeared with Elvin as well.
At only an hour long, the performance seems to be pretty anonymous and straightforward, but it is about the jazz and about the improvisation of same, so the performances are well worth sitting back and enjoying, just like Jones' style of rhythm. To give you an idea of how much this is about jazz, there are three songs to choose from on the disc, but it's the jams that reign surpreme. His style even influenced rock drummers like Ginger Baker from Cream and Mitch Mitchell from Jimi Hendrix's band. Their style was one of providing stable percussion with bouts of controlled fury on occasion that makes a rhythm section all that and the proverbial bag of chips.
The performance on this disc is captured from a 1995 performance in Stuttgart, Germany, and is presented in full frame and two-channel Dolby stereo. The Dolby audio is passable, though certainly not capable, with sound reproduced clearly and with a solid but pretty dormant low end, with the subwoofer nary poking its bass head up from the sonic ground. The full-frame presentation was in fairly disappointing shape with a lot of noise throughout the picture, and appears to be a disc that was pulled from an aging videotape copy of some sort, with amateurish graphics to boot. For fans of this disc, though, I should stipulate that there appears to be no discernible difference between this and the 2005 release from Kultur Video, so it's an even bigger mystery as to why we're seeing another release of this if it's going to be the same ole same ole.
At the end of the day, Elvin Jones and his Jazz Machine certainly warrant a look at the very least; the man was part of one of the more influential jazz acts in recent memory and the music he generates with these musicians is polished and is designed to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, which is surely what I did when I was watching. If only the picture didn't look like it was recorded and left on a pile of cigarette butts, I'd like it a lot more than I did. On the music level, though, it's worth the time.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: View Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site