• This Week in JazzSet History: Burton, Cook and Elvin Jones!

    March 27, 2012. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    It’s the end of March and we’re rounding the sixth  installment of an archeological dig, as Alexander Gelles Ariff of the Jazz History Department at Rutgers University Newark trowels through twenty seasons of JazzSet.

    JazzSetAnniversaryNoTag_200x200_FinalThis week in JazzSet history, we’re heading to Boston for three subtle but saucy performances thanks to the great station WGBH, a major contributor to and carrier of JazzSet since 1992. Steve Schwartz of WGBH was the producer for all three of the recordings cited below.

    First we’ll hear Gary Burton and Makoto Ozone duo as they tackle a traditional tune made famous by John Coltrane’s quartet, “Afro Blue.” Next, keeping with the Coltrane theme, we’ll turn to Elvin Jones. Instead of checking out his ferocious poly-rhythmic textures we know and love, I thought I would shed light on his brushwork on “Sophisticated Lady.” Finally, we’ll close out with one of the final performances tenor-titan Junior Cook gave before his untimely passing at the age of 57 in February of 1992.

    Gary Burton was the first vibraphonist to improvise using not two but four mallets. His virtuosity has transcended decades of jazz making him a living legend and inspiration to anyone holding the mallets. Boston is an important place for both Burton and pianist Makoto Ozone (oh-ZOH-nay). Burton’s bio on the Berklee website reads: “Much of Burton's story is intertwined with that of Berklee, where he arrived as a student in 1960, returned as an instructor in 1971, became dean of curriculum in 1985, and served as executive vice president from 1996 until his retirement in 2004.” Makoto Ozone attended Berklee in 1980 under the tutelage of Gary Burton, with whom he began playing in 1983. On June 7, 2001, the two reunited to perform at the Regattabar at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, MA. Here they are performing Mongo Santamaría's “Afro Blue.” If you dig this, check out this great video of the two in Montreaux.

    Elvin Jones’s late career involved a rotating line-up small group with the uniform name -- Elvin Jones Jazz Machine. This installment featured Jones, drums; Javon Jackson, tenor; Willie Pickens, piano; Andy McKee, bass, and a 19-year-old Nicholas Payton on trumpet. For this clip, we’ll hear the rhythm section on the Duke Ellington/Irving Mills classic “Sophisticated Lady” from an August 23, 1992, gig at the DeCordova Museum. I love Willie Pickens’s touch on the piano. He phases in and out of moments that are Monk-esque then Ellingtonian. Jones’s brushwork punctuates this sample. He’s 64 years old at the time, but sounds as fresh as any 1960s Impulse session! The original broadcast of this clip was April 3, 1993.

    One of Junior Cook’s last performances (and professional live recordings) was with the Michael Weiss quartet. Weiss grew up listening to Cook and told JazzSet that the the first record he bought was Horace Silver’s Blowin’ the Blues Away with Junior Cook on tenor. I love Cook’s laid back phrasing on the tune “Gnid” by Tadd Dameron featuring Weiss on piano, Tony Scheer on bass, and Andy Watson on drums. This clip is from a gig at Scullers on Boston on October 24, 1991, about three months before Cook passed away.

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