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Elvin Jones, 1927 – 2004

 

The premier drummer of the 1960’s jazz avant-garde, Elvin Jones’ polyrythmic propulsion was the driving force of the great John Coltrane Quartet. It is Jones behind Coltrane on most of the master’s finest recordings. As time went on, Trane’s music became too experimental, too frantic, even for Elvin’s taste. He left the group and continued to record extensively for Blue Note, Atlantic, and Enja.

 

His Midnight Walk with pianist Dollar Brand is an excellent example of his role as bandleader. Elvin is remembered as one of the three remarkably talented Jones brothers, along with pianist Hank and trumpeter Thad.

 

He was a consistent choice as “Year’s Best Drummer” on both listener and critic polls.  No one has emerged who single-handedly dominated the percussion chair for so long.

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Photograph by Roger Kallins. Courtesy of Patricia Darlington.