Last night at Blues Alley Elvin Jones, one of the master jazz drummers, delayed momentarily the opening of the first set while he made a final adjustment to his snares. It is not frivolous to point that out, for Jones utilizes tone and texture to a degree that few drummers are capable of.
On his own composition, "3 Card Molly," he entered an extended solo circumspectly, almost as though he wanted to display some technique, put on the flash. But he gradually constructed a kaleidoscope of press rolls, cymbal sprays, and tom-tom accents out of which evolved, audaciously, the theme line of the piece, its "head," which his quartet then rode out on.
As has often, even necessarily, been the case with great leaders in this music, Jones has come up with some remarkable sidemen over the years. His present group, the Jazz Machine, is no exception.
Tenor saxophonist Ari Brown is a "free" player but on George Cables' "Lord Jesus" he continually returned to the melodic line with short, fragmented phrases that were freer than his journeys away from the melody.
The swift runs of guitarist Marvin Horn had younger members of the audience gasping, but it was the drenching in the blues he gave us that equally impressed this listener.
Andy McCloud on bass is not a "many note" man. His forte is economy and understatement, and effective it is.
Elvin Jones and the Jazz Machine remain at Blues Alley through Sunday.