Elvin Jones - drums; Mel Lewis - drums; Freddie Waits - drums; Jo Jones - drums; With: Joe Galavant - Moog synthesizer; Paul Mitsky - guitar; Joe Chambers - marimba
Drum connoisseurs will appreciate this afternoon summit meeting sponsored by the Gretsch Drum Company and held outdoors at the Wollman Amphitheater in Central Park. First up on the eclectic bill is former John Coltrane Quartet drumming great Elvin Jones, who traverses the kit with polyrhythmic aplomb before being joined by Moog synthesizer player Joe Galavant and wah-wah-inflected guitarist Paul Mitsky. This far-out, futuristic fusion jam, fueled by Jones' signature rolling thunder on the kit, is easily the edgiest and most freewheeling of the presentations on this Saturday in the park. At the peak of this caustic jam, Elvin unleashes with a torrent on the tom toms, driving this harshly dissonant electronic mix to Hendrixian heights. The sheer tumult of the performance causes emcee George Wein to laugh as he announces to the crowd: "Elvin Jones, ladies and gentlemen! Strange things are happenin'!" Wein then presents Jones with his award as #1 drummer in the Down Beat International Critics Poll for 1973, which the drummer receives with a croaking acceptance speech.
Next up is a solo performance by big band drummer Mel Lewis, co-leader of the great Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. Beginning slowly with deliberate strokes utilizing mallets and sticks on toms and cymbals, he artfully orchestrates a thoughtful and dramatic piece that highlights the melodic potential of this most percussive of instruments. Drummer Freddie Waits, an in-demand drummer during the late '60s and early '70s who worked with the likes of Sonny Rollins, Andrew Hill and McCoy Tyner, as well as being a charter member of Max Roach's percussion ensemble M'Boom, comes next with an audacious eruption on the kit. Whereas Lewis took his time in his solo, letting his piece breathe and evolve gently by using silence judiciously, Waits dives in headfirst with a rapid-fire flurry on the kit that continues unabated in attack and intensity over the course of eight minutes. Waits is joined midway through his dynamic percussive deluge by fellow drummer-percussionist Joe Chambers on marimba and assorted hand percussion.
This Gretsch Greats show culminates with a stylish performance by elder statesman Papa Jo Jones, the legendary drummer who provided the swinging momentum for Count Basie's All-American Rhythm Section through the 1930s. The 62-year-old drumming great holds the crowd spellbound with his myriad of hip approaches to playing the hi-hat, his signature throughout his illustrious career. (Milkowski)