Elvin Jones

Elvin Jones

Infobox musical artist
Name = Elvin Jones

Img_capt = Elvin Jones in 1976
Img_size =
Landscape =
Background = non_vocal_instrumentalist
Birth_name = Elvin Ray Jones
Alias =
Born = Birth date|1927|9|9
Died = death date and age|2004|5|18|1927|9|9
Origin = Pontiac, Michigan, United States
Instrument = drums
Voice_type =
Genre = Modal jazz
Avant-garde jazz
Hard bop
Mainstream jazz
Occupation = Drummer
Years_active =
Label =
Associated_acts = John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Thad Jones, Hank Jones
Current_members =
Past_members =
Notable_instruments =

Elvin Ray Jones (9 September 1927–18 May 2004) was one of the most influential jazz drummers of the post-bop era. He showed interest in drums at a young age, watching the circus bands march by his family's home in Pontiac, Michigan. He served in the United States Army from 1946 to 1949 and subsequently played in a Detroit houseband led by Billy Mitchell. He moved to New York in 1955 and worked as a sideman for Charles Mingus-Teddy Charles, Bud Powell and Miles Davis.

From 1960 to 1966 he was a member of the John Coltrane quartet, perhaps his most celebrated recording phase, appearing on such albums as "A Love Supreme". Following his work with John Coltrane, Jones led several small groups, some under the name The Elvin Jones Jazz Machine. He recorded with both of his brothers during his career, jazz musicians Hank Jones and Thad Jones. His later career saw him working with many of the younger jazz artists of today, including Bill Frisell.


Early life

Elvin Jones was born in Pontiac, Michigan. By age two he said he knew he held a fascination for drums. He would watch the circus marching band parades go by his home as a boy, particularly fascinated by the drummers (sometimes wandering off for miles after the parade). Following his early passion, Elvin joined his high school's black marching band, where he developed his foundation in rudiments. Jones began service in the United States Army in 1946. He was discharged in 1949, and returned home penniless. Jones said he borrowed thirty-five dollars from his sister when he got back to buy his first drumset. [cite web| last = Gross| first = Terry| title = Elvin Jones NPR interview| url=http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1905210| accessdate = 2007-05-30 ]

1949-1960: Early career

Elvin began his professional career in 1949 with a short-lived gig in Detroit's Grand River Street club. Eventually he went on to play with artists such as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Wardell Gray. In 1955, after a failed audition for the Benny Goodman band, he found work in New York, joining Charles Mingus's band, and releasing a record called "J is for Jazz".

1960-1966: John Coltrane and Beyond

In 1960, he joined with the classic John Coltrane Quartet, which also included bassist Jimmy Garrison and pianist McCoy Tyner. Jones and Coltrane often played extended duet passages, both giving and taking energy through their instruments. This band is widely considered to have redefined "swing" (the rhythmic feel of jazz) in much the same way that Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and others did during earlier stages of jazz's development. He stayed with Coltrane until 1966. By that time, Jones was not entirely comfortable with Coltrane's new direction and his polyrhythmic style clashed with the "multidirectional" approach of the group's second drummer, Rashied Ali.

Jones remained highly active after leaving the John Coltrane group, and led several bands in the late sixties and seventies that are considered highly influential groups. Notable among them was a trio formed with saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Joe Farrell and (ex-Coltrane) bassist Jimmy Garrison, with whom he recorded the Blue Note album "Puttin' It Together". Jones recorded extensively for Blue Note under his own name in the late sixties and early seventies, with groups that featured prominent as well as up and coming greats. The two volume "Live at The Lighthouse" showcases a 21- and 26-year-old Steve Grossman and Dave Liebman, respectively. Other musicians of note who made significant contributions to Elvin's music during this period were baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, tenor saxophonists George Coleman and Frank Foster, trumpeter Lee Morgan, bassist Gene Perla, keyboardist Jan Hammer and Jazz - World Music group Oregon.

Late career

Elvin Jones' sense of timing, polyrhythms, dynamics, timbre, and legato phrasing - as well as the sheer mass of sound he produced - brought the drumset to the foreground. Jones was touted by Life Magazine as "the world's greatest rhythmic drummer", and his free-flowing style was a major influence on many leading rock drummers, including Mitch Mitchell (whom Jimi Hendrix called "my Elvin Jones") and Ginger Baker. In 1999, Jones worked with Our Lady Peace on their album "Happiness...Is Not a Fish That You Can Catch". He was featured playing drums on the song "Stealing Babies".


Jones, who taught regularly, often took part in clinics, played in schools, and gave free concerts in prisons. His lessons emphasized music history as well as drumming technique.


Elvin Jones died of heart failure in Englewood, New Jersey on May 18, 2004. He is survived by his first wife Shirley and his second, albeit common-law, wife Keiko (Elvin married Keiko before divorcing Shirley, meaning that legally he and Keiko were not married). Elvin Jones is also survived by his son Elvin Nathan Jones of California and daughter Rose-Marie From of Sweden.

Chicago. Not pictured are Jimmy Garrison on bass and Joe Farrell on soprano saxophone.
Original photographs and story by [http://www.flickr.com/photos/joeyharrison/1354576855/ Joey Harrison]


As leader

As sideman


External links

* [http://www.elvinjones.com/ Elvin Jones Official Site]
* [http://www.jazzdisco.org/elvin-jones/catalog/ Complete Elvin Jones Discography]
* [http://www.drummerworld.com/drummers/Elvin_Jones.html Elvin Jones at "drummerworld.com"]
* [http://stream.realimpact.net/rihurl.ram?file=realimpact/iaje/nea2003/jones/bio_jones2.rm NEA Jazz Masters video biography of Elvin Jones narrated by Billy Taylor]
* [http://stream.realimpact.net/rihurl.ram?file=realimpact/iaje/nea2003/jones/backstage_jones.rm Elvin Jones Interview from NEA Jazz Masters]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ytz1ZKk9wXw Elvin Jones with the John Coltrane Quartet performing "Afro Blue" on Ralph Gleason's "Jazz Casual", 1963]
* [http://www.jazz.com/dozens/dozens-essential-elvin "Elvin Jones: Twelve Essential Recordings"] by Eric Novod ( [http://www.jazz.com Jazz.com] )

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