Jazz Toilets and Hallowed Ground

elvin one down one up half note cd.jpg

SKF NOTEJazz toilet. Who coined that phrase, I don’t know. It refers to small, noisy, crowded, smoke-filled bars and clubs where most of our great jazz musicians worked at one time or another.

This photo of Elvin Jones, included in the John Coltrane Quartet’s One Down, One Up: Live At The Half Note CD, makes the point. Elvin is shown on the bandstand at The Half Note club in New York City.

Pianist McCoy Tyner‘s is at the piano, behind and to Elvin’s right. Jimmy Garrison‘s left arm and the side of his bass are also visible to Elvin’s right. To Elvin’s left, head about level with Elvin’s snare drum, is a Half Note bartender at work.

Based on other photos in the Half Note CD booklet, this photo is taken from where John Coltrane stood on the bandstand while playing.

I am grateful to club owners for providing venues for jazz musicians to perform and record. Even seeing musicians perform in NYC at The Five Spot or The Village Vanguard, for example, I was struck simultaneously by the jazz toilet aspect and the sense of being on hallowed ground.

And yet, when first seeing the photos accompanying the Coltrane Quartet’s One Down, One Up: Live At The Half Note CD, I had trouble believing what I was seeing. While I am glad the Coltrane Quartet didn’t look at the Half Note stage and say, “Forget it,” I would not have blamed them for doing so.


About Scott K Fish

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