13 Drummers Remember Elvin Jones

Transcending Genres

“I can hear Elvin’s influence in a lot of rock drummers from the ’60s — Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, John Bonham. When I was 12 or so I sat in on his drum kit when he came through Boston, and he was very supportive from that age on. I was fortunate to play with him at Zildjian’s American Drumming Achievement Awards ceremony in 2000. It was a very nice, beautiful time that we had together. Wayne Shorter said something about himself that also applies to Elvin: ’I’m not what I do, I do what I am.’ What Elvin played was a direct reflection of how he was as a human being. And to me, he was definitely a medicine man, a wise man, a chief.” — Terri Lyne Carrington

He Could Be Heavy

“I remember playing at Bradley’s [fabled but long defunct jazz room in Manhattan] one night when Elvin came down and sat in on my kit, and afterwards he said, “Allen, I like these drums. But they won’t stay still,” because every time he would hit the bass drum it would just go flying under the piano. He just had so much power it was incredible. Everything about his playing — his way of comping, his way of orchestrating — was so profound. People hear Elvin and they mistake him for just being a basher but what they don’t realize is how great of an orchestrator he was. Plus, Elvin had that ability to make everyone around him sound better than they would without him. That’s a sign of a true master.” — Carl Allen

Elvin As A Feeling

“The first time I saw Elvin Jones play was at the Jazz Workshop in Boston in 1972. My folks took me to the club since I was underage. I had grown up mainly on big band jazz and seeing Elvin’s group blew my circuits! That concert was my wake-up call to the depth of jazz music and jazz drumming. After that I started to explore small group jazz, especially the music of John Coltrane with Elvin on drums. I saw Elvin many times after that and he was always swinging and creative and the whole experience was deeply moving. Elvin’s approach touched me profoundly and his influence lives deep inside of me. I feel it every time I play.” — Steve Smith

Courage And Faith

“When I was old enough and smart enough to really start looking into how Trane’s music works, I started to see that the phrases got longer and longer and the extrapolation harmonically, melodically, and rhythmically got further and further, which required more faith in the 1, in the tonic, in the center. And that required more and more openness and fearlessness. In order to play on that level, you really need to give it up, you need to have faith. And more than any other drummer, Elvin embodied that for me. When musicians get to that point, the line between dexterity and technique and faith and intuition begins to blur. It’s that courage of exposing your heart on the bandstand. That’s what I’ve learned from Elvin.” — Franklin Kiermeyer

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