George Coleman with Elvin Jones

Elvin Jones was born on this day in 1927, reason enough to finish up a transcription that’s been sitting on my desktop for a few months.

In March 1968 Jones led a trio with George Coleman and Wilbur Little. One LP came out officially as Live at the Village Vanguard on Enja, three more volumes were bootlegged as Skyscrapers on Honey Dew.

All the music is fabulous: Post-Coltrane New York City acoustic jazz circa 1968 had tremendous power. While many record labels lost interest in documenting jazz around this time, various lo-fi live tapes are fiercely charismatic.

George Coleman always sounds great, but on these ’68 trios with Elvin the tenor saxophonist seems especially monstrous. The correct name of the head is probably “Blues Inside Out,” but on Enja the tune is simply listed as “By George.”

Part of the joy in this performance is Coleman’s unflustered response to a chaotic rhythm section. Bassist Wilbur Little is way up on the beat, almost at odds with the drummer, yet there’s nothing to complain about, this is a pure 1968 kind of adrenaline. Jones isn’t holding back either, at times the bass and drums seem almost free form. Coleman floats easily on top, basically comping for the band, nailing every moment from bebop to intervallic to cries of Memphis blues.

Audio and transcription:

For the tenor players, here’s a PDF in the correct key: