Elvin Jones: Afro Blue

18 May

Remembering drummer Elvin Jones on the day of his death in 2004.

Though Jones’ career was long and his resume extensive, like McCoy Tyner, he’ll always be known for one thing above all others: he was part of John Coltrane’s quartet at its most important time.

Jones himself, from ejn.it/mus/jones: Right from the beginning to the last time we played together it was something pure. The most impressive thing was a feeling of steady, collective learning . . . If there is anything like perfect harmony in human relationships, that band was as close as you can come.”

From Peter Keepnews’ obit of Jones at nytimes.com:  “(Jones) in turn influenced Coltrane, Mr. Jones’s ferocious rhythms goading Coltrane to ecstatic heights in performance and on recordings like  “A Love Supreme” and “Ascension.”

It was, in  part, because of Jones that the quartet made the music it did. From Lewis Porter’s book “John Coltrane: His Life and His Music”, quoting bassist Steve Davis:” “That first night Elvin was in the band . . . he was playing so strong and so loud you could hear him outside down the block. Trane wanted it that way. He wanted a drummer who could really kick, and Elvin was one of the strongest, wildest drummers in the world. After the gig, Trane put his arm around Elvin and took him to a barbecue around the corner, and bought him some ribs. Trane and Elvin were tight from then on.”

Jones parted with Coltrane before the saxophonist’s death — Keepnews speculated Jones might have been offended by Coltrane’s decision to add a second drummer — and he led his own band for years, mentoring younger players as he became more and more of an older hand. Life Magazine called him “the world’s greatest rhythmic drummer.”

Wynton Marsalis, from hardbop.tripod.com: “Elvin is so great it will bring tears to your eyes. I mean, damn, somebody play drums like that! Just that he could figure out all that.”

Jones was part of one of the most famous families in jazz. Older brothers Hank, who died a year and two days ago at age 91, was a famous pianist and Thad, who died in 1986 at age 63, was a famous trumpeter. In all, Jones had nine siblings.

Jones was 76 when he died of heart failure in Englewood, N.J.

Sources: ejn.it/mus/jones, nytimes.com, drummerworld.com, hardbop.tripod.com

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