Wednesday, January 15, 2014
More time spent in Richard Davis' room
This is the second entry in what I hope will be a continuing series. (It was launched here.) We have yet to come up with a snappy title for this series. "Whose House? Van's House!" was the best I could do on such short notice. On second thought, maybe we will not come up with a snappy title for this series. Because titles—snappy, foolish, or otherwise—are not exactly obligatory. This is "Elvin's Guitar Blues," a track from 1967's Heavy Sounds. The album is a collaboration between bassist Richard Davis and drummer Elvin Jones. The former you know from Astral Weeks; the latter is most famous for his membership in the John Coltrane Quartet and his performances on that group's most celebrated recordings: My Favorite Things, Live at Birdland, A Love Supreme, etc. The extended opening on "Elvin's Guitar Blues" features Jones on acoustic guitar and Davis on upright bass. It's sparse, prepared, harmonious—it's really not like jazz at all. Davis' bass playing feels withdrawn; he accents Jones' guitar lines for several notes, retreats to silence, returns to play briefly once more, mutes himself again. However, the paucity of this performance is what makes it brilliant—this is Davis bringing beautiful, yet delicate, balance to a song. He is so deft at managing the push/pull dynamic that exists when just two musicians play. You can hear it during particular moments on Astral Weeks and you can certainly hear it here.