Taken from a 1991 performance at Theaterhaus in Stuttgart, Germany, legendary jazz drummer Elvin Jones and his quintet Jazz Machine are filmed during a show-stopping performance of high-energy, progressive jazz. The late percussion innovator is joined by saxophonists Sonny Fortune and Ravi Coltrane, pianist Willie Dickens and bassist Chip Jackson. The hour-long set, consisting of only three tunes, emphasizes the high-level improvisational prowess of each musician.
The bouncy swing of "Is There a Jackson in the House?" is buoyed by Jones’ aggressive pulse; the drummer’s two-beat groove during the head is nothing short of explosive. With drums front-and-center, the energy behind each soloist soars to unthinkable heights. After extended blowing from Fortune, Coltrane, Pickens and Jackson, Jones goes on a bombastic, polyrhythmic tirade before the main theme is restated.
Without abandoning an ounce of momentum, Fortune switches from tenor to flute for "Ray El," a medium-tempo blues written by Jones’ brother Thad. From the veteran reed man’s hard-edged flute tone, to Coltrane’s winding soprano lines, to Pickens punchy spontaneity, to Jackson’s slick double-stops, the tune’s overall vibe is both adventurous and greasy.
The Japanese folk song "Doll of the Bride" is given a modal twist over an Afro-Cuban rhythmic vamp. The incessant groove created by Jones and Jackson is mesmerizing, and the hauntingly simple melody is heard repeatedly throughout as an interlude between solos, achieving a level of connectivity through seemingly endless blowing. Jackson and Jones take turns wowing the audience with unaccompanied solos before the melody is heard one final time to bring closure to a concert teeming with musical brilliance.