Steve Grigge/Elvin Jones – Jones for Elvin

Steve Griggs/ Elvin Jones
Jones for Elvin
(Hip City Music – 1998)
by John Barrett

They were fans who had the chance to be bandmates. Steve Griggs was talking Trane with Gregg Keplinger, who mentioned that he knew Elvin Jones. Soon the man was in Seattle, recording with Steve the old-fashioned way, in a big room with vintage microphones. Same goes for the music: the title track is pure 1957, and the bop could not be harder. A guitar brings the chords: that’s Milo Peterson, with the sharp ring of Burrell. Steve dives into the solo, light rasp and big muscle. He likes early Trane but isn’t a copycat – in this company, that’s be a mistake. Jay Thomas floats high: clear notes, gentle attack, good times. It’s a must if you like vintage Blue Note, and not just for Elvin; the band belongs in his company, and that’s a glory to behold.

Next is a joyride called “You’re the Berries”; Elvin clicks like “Out of This World”. Milo steps softly, while Steve has a big rusty swing. Jones is all over the place; what he can do with a couple of cymbals! It’s quieter for “Healing”, whose theme unfolds like petals. (Reminds me of Joe Henderson, especially “Punjab”.) Jay is a whisper, saying little and doing it wonderfully. Steve says a bundle on “Sparks” (named for the bassist, who walks it good.) At first reticent, the sax bubbles up: tight compact lines leading to squeals. Jay calms it down with sweet purity; Milo has fun snaking around. He gets his own on “Mellifluous Milieu”; little steps, and a warmer tone than usual. (Hear Elvin, grunting his approval.) Cute chords, notes flying in the breeze – lives up to its name.

There’s fire on “Claudia” (Steve’s soprano is unleashed!) and for “Sentimental Mood”, some sensuous smoke. Chosen spur-of-the-moment at day’s end, Steve quavers softly, dripping romance as Jay hums. The brushes go thick, Sparks walks big, and here comes the Trane whistle, but gently. Tender among the fury, this one stands out, and so does the album. The tunes are good, Jones is his explosive self, and the moods are forever. Best of all are two magic words on the cover: “Volume One”. I can’t wait for the rest.

(Note: We received the new ‘Jones for Elvin vol:2’ the other day and will be covering it in next month’s JazzUSA – Ed.)