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Jones, Elvin

Elvin Jones

1927-2004

Jazz musician, drummer

Many music critics regard Elvin Jones as the most influential drummer in the history of jazz. His revolutionary style transformed the drums as a traditional time-keeping instrument. Employing a multilayered, rhythmic approach, Jones created a dynamic interplay with soloists unprecedented by earlier drum stylists. Early in his career, he performed with jazzmen such as Charles Mingus, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, and Miles Davis. However, it wasn't until he joined the John Coltrane Quartet in 1960 that Jones began to attract international recognition. During his six years with Coltrane's group, Jones contributed to some of the most celebrated recordings in the history of modern jazz. For over five decades, his innovative rhythmic technique served as a catalyst for drummers seeking greater improvisational freedom.

Was Born into a Musical Family

Elvin Jones was born on September 9, 1927, in Pontiac, Michigan, the youngest of ten children in a musical family. Besides his talented brothers Hank and Thad, he had two sisters who studied piano and violin. This early exposure to music was the foundation for Jones's later affinity for jazz. Around the age of five or six, Jones visited the fairgrounds in Pontiac, where the Ringling Brothers circus drummers performed. That experience—combined with local radio broadcasts of symphonic music that introduced him to the sound of the tympani drums—inspired him to become a percussionist. Whether at a parade or at a football game, Jones could be found observing a musical rhythm section with intent fascination and, much to the frustration of his mother, he began to practice what he learned on various objects around the house.

While in junior high school, Jones acquired a drum method book from which he quickly learned the rudiments of percussion. "Being able to read music," Jones explained to Herb Nolan in Down Beat, "opened up a whole world of possibilities," because it provided techniques that could be applied to other musical forms. Fred N. Weist, Jones's high school band instructor, contributed to the young drummer's knowledge and approach to percussion. However, desiring a career as a professional drummer, Jones dropped out of high school. In 1946 he ventured to Boston in search of employment. Soon, he found himself in the U.S. Army, where he performed in various military bands for the next three years.

Returning to Michigan in 1949, Jones's older sister loaned him money to finally purchase his first set of drums. Jones played in groups with his brothers Hank and Thad. While performing in Detroit-area clubs, he shared the stage with local greats such as the guitarist Kenny Burrell, the bassist Paul Chambers, and the pianist Tommy Flannagan. As a member of Billy Mitchell's house band at the Blue Bird, Jones performed with the finest Detroit musicians as well as jazz legends such as the trumpeter Miles Davis and the saxophonist John Coltrane. "They took me as one of their own, and I began to use my abilities," reminisced Jones in the Detroit Free Press. "It was a great camaraderie there."

In 1955 Jones left for New York to audition for Benny Goodman's band. He didn't get the job but, within two weeks, he joined a group led by the bassist Charles Mingus. After touring with Mingus, Jones performed for over a year with the pianist Bud Powell, a musician he considered to be one of the masters of modern jazz. In 1957 Jones toured Europe with the trombonist J. J. Johnson. Throughout the late 1950s, he recorded with internationally renowned musicians such as Sonny Rollins and Stan Getz, as well as Detroiters such as Chambers and Flannagan.

Joined the John Coltrane Quartet

One of Jones's crowning achievements came when he joined the John Coltrane Quartet in 1960. Replacing Billy Higgins on drums, Jones helped form one of the most formidable ensembles in modern jazz. Coltrane's group provided Jones with the opportunity to freely improvise within the arrangements. Along with the bassist Jimmy Garrison and the pianist McCoy Tyner, Jones and Coltrane conducted a powerful exchange of musical ideas. "The most impressive thing about working with 'Trane was a feeling of steady, collective learning," recalled Jones in Arthur Taylor's Notes and Tones: Musician to Musician Interviews. "I admired Coltrane both as a person and as a musician," he added. "It was the best of both possible worlds."

Like Coltrane, Jones had amazing musical stamina, a love for improvisation, and a taste for extended solos. The group's compatibility and productiveness was demonstrated in an October 1960 recording session, where over the course of a single week the band recorded three albums—My Favorite Things, Coltrane's Sound, and Coltrane Plays the Blues—and enough additional tracks for two later releases for Atlantic. The group never rehearsed its performances, preferring to improvise, and the atmosphere was so freewheeling that both Coltrane and Jones were liable to throw out solos or duets exceeding half an hour. "I never really knew until I heard a down beat, exactly what it was we were going to play. Once he [Coltrane] started playing we just sort of rallied around the flag," Jones explained to Terry Gross of National Public Radio's Fresh Air. "Sometimes, the way that group was … time didn't really have any significance. I didn't get tired; nobody got tired. [The goal] was just to pursue an idea or a mode to its natural conclusion, and if it took an hour or forty minutes or two hours or whatever, so be it."

In 1966 Coltrane added new musicians to the group, including a second drummer, Rashied Ali. Jones considered this arrangement incompatible with his musical direction and chose to leave the group. Following a brief stint in Europe with Duke Ellington's band, Jones returned to the United States, where he founded several trios under his own name. The first of these featured the bassist Wilbur Ware and the saxophonist/flutist Joe Farrel. Soon afterward, Ware was replaced by the former Coltrane Quartet member Jimmy Garrison. Because the trio did not have a guitar or piano to lay down harmonic foundations, making the group work proved a challenge for Jones. As he explained in Down Beat, the drummer's role within this format "is like the root of a tree…. You gotta be there, and firmly there."

At a Glance …

Born Elvin Jones on September 9, 1927, in Pontiac, MI; died of heart failure on May 18, 2004, in Englewood, NJ; son of a Baptist deacon and lumber inspector; married Keiko. Military service: U.S. Army, 1946-49.

Career: Jazz drummer and recording artist, 1949-2004; member of John Coltrane Quartet, 1960-66.

Awards: Member of Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame.

Mentored New Generation of Jazz Talent

Beginning in the 1970s Jones organized tours to Europe, Asia, and South America and performed at clubs, clinics, high schools, and free outdoor concerts. His appearance on recordings with Ron Carter on bass and McCoy Tyner on piano influenced a new generation of musicians to take up the study of acoustic jazz. Also, Jones gained a reputation as a nurturer of new jazz talent. "Giving someone a chance is the greatest gift that you can give to another person," he commented in an interview with Ken Franckling in DownBeat. Leading his own groups, Jones employed the talents of saxophonists such as Joe Farrel, Frank Foster, Dave Liebman, and George Coleman. By the 1990s, the lineup of his group, known as the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, featured the saxophonists Sonny Fortune and Coltrane's son, Ravi—musicians who seemed to share his philosophy. "The whole point is to play jazz, not any of its hybrid forms," Jones remarked in Down Beat. "You need to have a deep, spiritual feeling for the music."

As he stated in the film documentary Different Drummer: Elvin Jones, Jones believed his revolutionary drum-playing style stemmed from the fact that he could never "comply to the standard form." Using only a standard drum kit—without the aid of any electronics—Jones's innovative techniques greatly influenced modern jazz drumming. One example was his circular style of drumming, an approach that used broad sweeping movements across all the drums in the set rather than isolating a given drum at a time. By removing the traditional four-four beat on the bass drum, he was able to create what he called a more "constant flow of rhythm"—a technique that, in the words of Ron Weber on the All about Jazz Web site, "erased the line between foreground and background comping by elevating drum accompaniment to a continuous yet supportive solo." On the snare drum and cymbals, he played irregular accents that often accompanied soloists in furious dialogue. Even though many modernist drummers tried to imitate Jones's techniques, they often lacked his energy and skillful execution.

Jones continued performing live until his midseventies, sometimes bringing an oxygen tank on stage with him. "I saw men older than I was in Guinea, in Africa, on a stage," he told R. J. DeLuke on the All about Jazz Web site in 2002. "Not only did they play, but they danced. And they would leap above the stage three feet in the air with the drums. And those drums are heavy, you know? For hours! They wouldn't think anything of it. Because it's what they did. They don't do anything else. That's what they live for. That's their life…. I feel the same way."

Jones passed away on May 18, 2004, of heart failure. His effect on modern music was profound. Jones's improvisational approach helped lay the foundation for the avant-garde and fusion jazz movements. A unique and gifted individual, Jones redefined the role of the drums in jazz music, and his influence extended to a new school of jazz drummers who perform on concert stages throughout the world.

Selected discography

(With Thad Jones) The Magnificent Thad Jones, Blue Note, 1956.

(With Charles Mingus) Pithecanthropus Erectus, Atlantic, 1956.

(With Miles Davis) Blue Moods, America, 1957.

(With Thad Jones) Mad Thad, Period, 1957.

(With Sonny Rollins) Night at the Village Vanguard, Blue Note, 1957.

(With John Coltrane) Coltrane Plays the Blues, Atlantic, 1960.

(With John Coltrane) Coltrane's Sound, Atlantic, 1960.

(With John Coltrane) My Favorite Things, Atlantic, 1960.

(With John Coltrane) Ballads, Impulse, 1961.

Elvin!, Riverside, 1961.

(With John Coltrane) Impressions, Impulse, 1961.

(With John Coltrane) Live at Birdland, Impulse, 1961.

(With Miles Davis) Sketches of Spain, Columbia, 1961.

(With John Coltrane) Ballads, Impulse, 1962.

Illumination!, Impulse, 1963

(With John Coltrane) Crescent, Impulse, 1964.

(With John Coltrane) A Love Supreme, Impulse, 1964.

(With John Coltrane) Ascension, Impulse, 1965.

New Thing at Newport, Impulse, 1965.

(With McCoy Tyner) Today and Tomorrow, Impulse, 1967.

Puttin' It Together, Blue Note, 1968.

Poly-Currents, Blue Note, 1969.

Live at the Lighthouse, Blue Note, 1972.

(With McCoy Tyner) Trident, Milestone, 1975.

Very R.A.R.E., Evidence, 1978.

(With McCoy Tyner) Reunited, Black Hawk, 1982.

That's the Way I Feel Now (Tribute to Thelonious Monk), A&M, 1984.

In Europe, Enja, 1991.

(With Sonny Sharrock) Ask the Ages, Axiom, 1992.

Youngblood, Enja, 1992.

Going Home, Enja, 1993.

When I Was at Aso-Mountain, Enja, 1993.

After the Rain, Verve, 1995.

It Don't Mean a Thing, Enja, 1995.

Familiar, West Wind, 1997.

Jazz Machine, Jazzfest, 1997

(With Steve Griggs) Jones for Elvin Vols. 1 and 2, Hip City Music, 1999.

Sources

Books

Balliet, Whitney, Ecstacy at the Onion: Thirty-one Pieces on Jazz, Bobbs-Merrill, 1971.

Kernfield, Barry, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, MacMillan, 1988.

Priestly, Brian, Mingus: A Critical Biography, Quartet Books, 1982.

Taylor, Arthur, Notes and Tones: Musician to Musician Interviews, Perigee, 1982.

Thomas, J. C., Chasin' the Trane: The Mystique of John Coltrane, Doubleday, 1975.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, July 8, 1994.

Detroit Free Press, November 5, 1991.

Down Beat, October 2, 1969; March 2, 1972; November 8, 1973; March 1992; July 1992; September 1992; November 1992.

Jazz Journal, April 1975.

New York Times, February 8, 1994; May 19, 2004.

Rolling Stone, February 4, 1993.

Washington Post, October 19, 1996.

Online

DeLuke, R. J., "Elvin Jones: Drumming Icon Is Still Cooking," All about Jazz, http://www.allaboutjazz.com/iviews/ejones2002.htm (May 30, 2008).

Gross, Terry, "Remembering Drummer Elvin Jones," Fresh Air, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1905210 (accessed May 30, 2008).

Weber, Ron, "Good-Bye Elvin," All about Jazz, http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=14159 (accessed May 30, 2008).

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained from liner notes by Billy Taylor, Puttin' It Together: The Elvin Jones Trio, Blue Note, 1967; the documentary Different Drummer: Elvin Jones, directed by Ed Gray, 1979; and a recording of a Wayne State University drum clinic, Detroit, MI, November 15, 1991.

—Ashyia Henderson and Derek Jacques

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Jones, Elvin

Elvin Jones

Jazz drummer

For the Record

From Detroit to New York

Became Drummer in John Coltrane Quartet

Toured Internationally

Selected discography

Sources

Many music critics regard Elvin Jones as the most influential drummer in the history of jazz. His revolutionary style transformed the drums as a traditional time-keeping instrument. Employing a multilayered, rhythmic approach, he created a dynamic interplay with soloists unprecedented by earlier drum stylists. Early in his career, Jones performed with such jazzmen as Charles Mingus, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, and Miles Davis. But it wasnt until he joined the John Coltrane Quartet in 1960 that Jones began to attract international recognition. During his six years with Coltranes group, Jones contributed to some of the most celebrated recordings in the history of modern jazz. For over four decades, his innovative rhythmic technique has served as a catalyst for drummers who seek greater improvisational freedom.

Jones was born on September 9, 1927, in Pontiac, Michigan, not far from Detroit. The youngest of ten children, he belonged to a musical family. Aside from his two brilliantly talented brothers, Hank and Thad, he had two sisters who studied piano and violin. Joness early interest in music preceded his later affinity for jazz.

Around the age of five or six, Jones visited a fairgrounds in Pontiac where the Ringling Brothers circus drummers performed. That experiencecombined with local radio broadcasts of symphonic music that introduced him to the sound of the tympani drumsinspired him to become a percussionist. Whether at a parade or at a football game, Jones could be found observing a musical rhythm section with intent fascination. Much to the frustration of his mother, he began to practice rhythms on various objects around the family home. When he reached age fourteen, his older sister loaned him money to purchase his first set of drums.

While in junior high school, Elvin acquired a drum method book from which he quickly learned the rudiments of percussion. Being able to read music, Jones explained to Herb Nolan in Down Beat, opened up a whole world of possibilities, since it provided techniques that could be applied to other musical forms. Joness high school band instructor Fred N. Weist contributed to the young drummers knowledge and approach to percussion. But after a year, Jonesdesiring a career as a professional drummerleft school. In 1946, he ventured to Boston in search of employment. On the East Coast, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. For the next three years, he performed in various military bands.

For the Record

Born September 9, 1927, in Pontiac, MI; son of a Baptist deacon and lumber inspector; married; wifes name, Keiko.

Jazz drummer and recording artist; performed with Charles Mingus, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, and Miles Davis; member of John Coltrane Quartet, 1960-66. Appeared in film Zachariah, 1970. Military service: U.S. Army, 1946-49.

Awards: Member of Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame.

Addresses: Record company Enja, c/o Koch International Corp., 177 Cantiague Rock Rd., Westbury, NY 11590.

From Detroit to New York

Returning to Pontiac in 1949, Jones played in groups with his brothers, Hank and Thad. In clubs around the Detroit area, Jones shared the stage with such local greats as guitarist Kenny Burrell, bassist Paul Chambers, and pianist Tommy Flannagan. As a member of Billy Mitchells house band at the Blue Bird, Jones performed with the finest Detroit musicians as well as jazz legends like trumpeter Miles Davis and saxophonist John Coltrane. They took me as one of their own, and I began to use my abilities, reminisced Jones in the Detroit Free Press. It was a great camaraderie there.

In 1955 Jones left for New York to audition for Benny Goodmans band. He did not get the job, but within two weeks, he joined a group led by bassist Charles Mingus. Elvin was a prophet, declared Mingus in Mingus: A Critical Biography. I never swung so much or rather lived so much in my life. After touring with Mingus, Jones performed for over a year with pianist Bud Powell, a musician he considers one of the masters of modern jazz. In 1957 Jones toured Europe with trombonist J. J. Johnson. Throughout the late 1950s he recorded with such musicians as Sonny Rollins and Stan Getz and Detroiters like Chambers and Flannagan.

Became Drummer in John Coltrane Quartet

But one of Joness crowning achievements came when he joined John Coltranes Quartet in 1960. Replacing Billy Higgins on drums, Jones helped form one of the most formidable ensembles in modern jazz. Coltranes group provided Jones with the opportunity to freely improvise within the arrangements. Along with bassist Jimmy Garrison and pianist McCoy Tyner, Jones and Coltrane conducted a powerful exchange of musical ideas. The most impressive thing about working with Trane was a feeling of steady, collective learning, recalled Jones in Arthur Taylors Notes and Tones: Musician to Musician Interviews. I admired Coltrane both as a person and as a musician, he added. It was the best of both possible worlds. In 1966 Coltrane added a second drummer, Rashied Ali. Jones, who considered this arrangement incompatible with his musical direction, chose to leave the group.

Following a brief stint in Europe with Duke Ellingtons band, Jones returned to the United States where he founded several trios under his own name. The first of these featured bassist Wilbur Ware and saxophonist-flutist Joe Farrel. Soon afterward, Ware was replaced by former Coltrane member Garrison. Because the trio did not have a guitar or piano to lay down harmonic foundations, making the group work proved a challenge for Jones. For as he explained in Down Beat, the drummers role within this format is like a root of tree You gotta be there, and firmly there. Among the trios recordings was Puttin It Together.

Toured Internationally

Beginning in the 1970s, Jones organized tours to Europe, Asia, and South America and performed at clubs, clinics, high schools, and free outdoor concerts. His appearance on recordings with Ron Carter on bass and Tyner on piano influenced a new generation of musicians to take up the study of acoustic jazz, and he gained a reputation as a nurturer of new jazz talent. Giving someone a chance is the greatest gift that you can give to another person, he commented in an interview with Ken Franckling in Down Beat. Leading his own groups, Jones employed the talents of such saxophonists as Farrel, Frank Foster, Dave Liebman, and George Coleman. By the 1990s, the line-up of his group, known as the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, featured saxophonists Sonny Fortune and John Coltranes son, Ravimusicians who seem to share his philosophy. The whole point is to play jazz, not any of its hybrid forms, Jones continued in Down Beat. You need to have a deep, spiritual feeling for the music.

Using only a standard drum kitwithout the aid of any electronicsJones changed the face of percussion in the jazz world. He is responsible for the innovation of a circular style of drumming, an approach that uses broad sweeping movements across the drums. Often beginning an arrangement by introducing a simple pattern or theme, he perpetually builds the rhythm into a near-kinetic state. By removing the traditional four-four beat on the bass drum, Jones is able to create what he calls a more constant flow of rhythm. On the snare drum and cymbals, he plays irregular accents that often accompany soloists in furious dialogue. Although many modernist drummers try to imitate Joness techniques, they often lack his skillful execution. For as Jones stresses, no matter how abstract the arrangement, a drummers main responsibility is to keep time.

Elvin Jones has had a profound impact on modern music. His improvisational approach helped lay the foundations for avant garde and fusion jazz movements. During the 1960s he was idolized by a number of rock musicians, including Jimi Hendrixs drummer, Mitch Mitchell. A unique and gifted individual, Jones has redefined the role of the drums in jazz music. His influence extends to a new school of jazz drummers who perform on concert stages throughout the world. As he stated in the film documentary Different Drummer, Jones believes his exceptional approach stems from the fact that he could never comply to the standard form. Impelled by this rebellious spirit, he continues to devote his life to the pursuit of infinite rhythmic variations and creative expression.

Selected discography

Solo releases

Elvin!, 1962.

Puttin It Together: The Elvin Jones Trio, Blue Note, 1967.

In Europe, Enja, 1992.

Youngblood, Enja, 1993.

Yesterdays, Precision.

Thats the Way I Feel Now (Tribute to Thelonious Monk), A&M.

Live at the Lighthouse, Black Sun.

Poly-Currents, Black Sun.

With John Coltrane

My Favorite Things, Atlantic, 1960.

Ballads, Impulse, 1961.

Live at Birdland, Impulse, 1961.

Impressions, Impulse, 1961.

A Love Supreme, Impulse, 1963.

New Thing at Newport, Impulse, 1965.

With others

(With McCoy Tyner) Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner Quintet Reunion, Black Hawk, 1982.

(With Pharoah Sanders) Ask the Ages, Axiom, 1992.

(With Tyner) Today and Tomorrow, Impulse.

(With Tyner) Trident, Milestone.

Sources

Books

Balliet, Whitney, Ecstacyat the Onion: Thirty-one Pieces on Jazz, Bobbs-Merrill, 1971.

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, edited by Barry Kernfield, MacMillan, 1988.

Priestly, Brian, Mingus: A Critical Biography, Quartet Books, 1982.

Taylor, Arthur, Notes and Tones: Musician to Musician Interviews, Perigee, 1982.

Thomas, J. D., Chasinthe Trane: The Mystique of John Coltrane, Doubleday, 1975.

Periodicals

Detroit Free Press, November 5, 1991.

Down Beat, October 2, 1969; March 2, 1972; November 8, 1973; March 1992; July 1992; September 1992; November 1992.

Jazz Journal, April, 1975.

Rolling Stone, February 4, 1993.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from liner notes by Billy Taylor to Puttin It Together: The Elvin Jones Trio, Blue Note, 1967; the documentary Different Drummer: Elvin Jones, directed by Ed Gray, 1979; and a recording of a Wayne State University drum clinic, Detroit, Ml, November 15, 1991.

John Cohassey

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"Jones, Elvin." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Jones, Elvin." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved June 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jones-elvin

Jones, Elvin 1927–

Elvin Jones 1927

Jazz drummer

At a Glance

From Detroit to New York

Became Drummer in John Coltranes Quartet

Toured Internationally

Selected discography

Sources

Many music critics regard Elvin Jones as the most influential drummer in the history of jazz. His revolutionary style transformed the drums as a traditional time-keeping instrument. Employing a multilayered, rhythmic approach, Jones created a dynamic interplay with soloists unprecedented by earlier drum stylists. Early in his career, he performed with such jazzmen as Charles Mingus, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, and Miles Davis. However, it wasn t until he joined the John Coltrane Quartet in 1960 that Jones began to attract international recognition. During his six years with Coltranes group, Jones contributed to some of the most celebrated recordings in the history of modern jazz. For over four decades, his innovative rhythmic technique has served as a catalyst for drummers seeking greater improvisational freedom.

Elvin Jones was born on September 9, 1927, in Pontiac, Michigan, the youngest of ten children in a musical family. In addition to his talented brothers, Hank and Thad, he had two sisters who studied piano and violin. This early exposure to music was the foundation for Joness later affinity for jazz. Around the age of five or six, Jones visited a fairgrounds in Pontiac where the Ringling Brothers circus drummers performed. That experiencecombined with local radio broadcasts of symphonic music that introduced him to the sound of the tympani drums inspired him to become a percussionist. Whether at a parade or at a football game, Jones could be found observing a musical rhythm section with intent fascination and, much to the frustration of his mother, he began to practice what he learned on various objects around the house. When he reached age 14, his older sister loaned Jones money to purchase his first set of drums.

While in junior high school, Jones acquired a drum method book from which he quickly learned the rudiments of percussion. Being able to read music, Jones explained to Herb Nolan in Down Beat, opened up a whole world of possibilities, since it provided techniques that could be applied to other musical forms. Joness high school band instructor, Fred N. Weist, contributed to the young drummers knowledge and approach to percussion. However, desiring a career as a professional drummer, Jones dropped out of high school. In 1946, he ventured to Boston in search of employment. Soon, Jones found himself U.S. Army where, for the next three years, he performed in various military bands.

At a Glance

Born September 9, 1927, in Pontiac, MI; son of a Baptist deacon and lumber inspector; married; wifes name, Keiko.

Jazz drummer and recording artist; member of John Coltrane Quartet, 1960-66. Appeared in film Zachariah, 1970. Military service : U.S. Army, 1946-49.

Awards: Member of Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame.

Addresses: Record company Enja, c/o Koch International Corp., 177 Cantiague Rock Road, Westbury, NY 11590.

From Detroit to New York

Returning to Michigan in 1949, Jones played in groups with his brothers, Hank and Thad. While performing in Detroit-area clubs, he shared the stage with such local greats as guitarist Kenny Burrell, bassist Paul Chambers, and pianist Tommy Flannagan. As a member of Billy Mitchells house band at the Blue Bird, Jones performed with the finest Detroit musicians as well as jazz legends like trumpeter Miles Davis and saxophonist John Coltrane. They took me as one of their own, and I began to use my abilities, reminisced Jones in the Detroit Free Press. It was a great camaraderie there.

In 1955, Jones left for New York to audition for Benny Goodmans band. He didn t get the job but, within two weeks, he joined a group led by bassist Charles Mingus. Elvin was a prophet, declared Mingus in Mingus: A Critical Biography,. I never swung so much or rather lived so much in my life. After touring with Mingus, Jones performed for over a year with pianist Bud Powell, a musician he considered one of the masters of modern jazz. In 1957, Jones toured Europe with trombonist J. J. Johnson. Throughout the late 1950s, he recorded with such internationally-renowned musicians as Sonny Rollins and Stan Getz, as well as, Detroiters like Chambers and Flannagan.

Became Drummer in John Coltranes Quartet

One of Joness crowning achievements occured when he joined John Coltranes Quartet in 1960. Replacing Billy Higgins on drums, Jones helped form one of the most formidable ensembles in modern jazz. Coltranes group provided Jones with the opportunity to freely improvise within the arrangements. Along with bassist Jimmy Garrison and pianist McCoy Tyner, Jones and Coltrane conducted a powerful exchange of musical ideas. The most impressive thing about working with Trane was a feeling of steady, collective learning, recalled Jones in Arthur Taylors Notes and Tones: Musician to Musician Interviews. I admired Coltrane both as a person and as a musician, he added. It was the best of both possible worlds. In 1966 Coltrane added a second drummer, Rashied Ali. Jones considered this arrangement incompatible with his musical direction and chose to leave the group.

Following a brief stint in Europe with Duke Ellingtons band, Jones returned to the United States where he founded several trios under his own name. The first of these featured bassist Wilbur Ware and saxophonist/flutist Joe Farrel. Soon afterward, Ware was replaced by former Coltrane Quartet member Jimmy Garrison. Because the trio did not have a guitar or piano to lay down harmonic foundations, making the group work proved a challenge for Jones. As he explained in Down Beat, the drummers role within this format is like the root of a tree. You gotta be there, and firmly there.

Toured Internationally

Beginning in the 1970s, Jones organized tours to Europe, Asia, and South America and performed at clubs, clinics, high schools, and free outdoor concerts. His appearance on recordings with Ron Carter on bass and McCoy Tyner on piano influenced a new generation of musicians to take up the study of acoustic jazz. Also, Jones gained a reputation as a nurturer of new jazz talent. Giving someone a chance is the greatest gift that you can give to another person, he commented in an interview with Ken Franckling in Down Beat. Leading his own groups, Jones employed the talents of saxophonists like Joe Farrel, Frank Foster, Dave Liebman, and George Coleman. By the 1990s, the line-up of his group, known as the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, featured saxophonists Sonny Fortune and Coltranes son, Ravimusicians who seem to share his philosophy. The whole point is to play jazz, not any of its hybrid forms, Jones remarked in Down Beat. You need to have a deep, spiritual feeling for the music.

Using only a standard drum kitwithout the aid of any electronicsJoness innovative techniques greatly influenced modern jazz drumming. One example is his circular style of drumming, an approach that uses broad sweeping movements across the drums. Often beginning an arrangement by introducing a simple pattern or theme, Jones perpetually builds the rhythm into a nearkinetic state. By removing the traditional four-four beat on the bass drum, he is able to create what he calls a more constant flow of rhythm. On the snare drum and cymbals, he plays irregular accents that often accompany soloists in furious dialogue. Although many modernist drummers have tried to imitate Joness techniques, they often lack his skillful execution.

Joness effect on modern music has been profound. His improvisational approach has helped to lay the foundation for the avant-garde and fusion jazz movements. A unique and gifted individual, Jones has redefined the role of the drums in jazz music. His influence extends to a new school of jazz drummers who perform on concert stages throughout the world. As he stated in the film documentary Different Drummer, Jones believes his revolutionary drum-playing style stems from the fact that he could never comply to the standard form. This rebellious spirit continues to compel Jones to devote his life to the pursuit of infinite rhythmic variations and creative expression.

Selected discography

Solo Releases

Elvin!, 1962.

Puttin It Together: The Elvin Jones Trio, Blue Note, 1967.

In Europe, Enja, 1992.

Youngblood, Enja, 1993.

Yesterdays, Precision.

Thats the Way I Feel Now (Tribute to Thelonious Monk), A&M.

Live at the Lighthouse, Black Sun.

Poly-Currents, Black Sun.

With John Coltrane

My Favorite Things, Atlantic, 1960.

Ballads, Impulse, 1961.

Live at Birdland, Impulse, 1961.

Impressions, Impulse, 1961.

A Love Supreme, Impulse, 1963.

New Thing at Newport, Impulse, 1965.

With Others

(With McCoy Tyner) Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner Quintet Reunion, Black Hawk, 1982.

(With Pharoah Sanders) Ask the Ages, Axiom, 1992.

(With Tyner) Today and Tomorrow, Impulse.

(With Tyner) Trident, Milestone.

Sources

Books

Balliet, Whitney, Ecstacy at the Onion: Thirty-one Pieces on Jazz, Bobbs-Merrill, 1971.

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, edited by Barry Kernfield, MacMillan, 1988.

Priestly, Brian, Mingus: A Critical Biography, Quartet Books, 1982.

Taylor, Arthur, Notes and Tones: Musician to Musician Interviews, Perigee, 1982.

Thomas, J. D., Chasin the Trane: The Mystique of John Coltrane, Doubleday, 1975.

Periodicals

Detroit Free Press, November 5, 1991.

Down Beat, October 2, 1969; March 2, 1972; November 8, 1973; March 1992; July 1992; September 1992; November 1992.

Jazz Journal, April 1975.

Rolling Stone, February 4, 1993.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from liner notes by Billy Taylor, Puttin It Together: The Elvin Jones Trio, Blue Note, 1967; the documentary Different Drummer: Elvin Jones, directed by Ed Gray, 1979; and a recording of a Wayne State University drum clinic, Detroit, MI, November 15, 1991.

John Cohassey

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