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13 Drummers Remember Elvin Jones

A Touch Of Africa

“One of the major impacts that Elvin had on me was carrying the African root into American jazz music. As a young man, listening to Elvin and Trane on records scared me to death because what they were saying through their music was, “This is the commitment, and it goes beyond even death.” I remember one time being backstage with Elvin at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, and you could tell by looking at him that time was passing for Elvin, he was showing his age. But by the time he hit the stage it was like he was magically transformed. Suddenly, he was like a monster man. Elvin could transform the molecules in a room through his playing.” — Babatunde Lea

Drum Brothers

“We were like brothers. One of the things that some people realize is that Elvin was related to me musically. If they were really hip, they could tell. Trane knew. In fact, the last time I had seen him, Elvin was telling me that Max [Roach] was not answering the door anymore [due to a prolonged illness that he’s had]. They lived in the same building in Manhattan and so Elvin and I made a plan where I was going to come by and we both were going to see Max and cheer him up, which didn’t happen. The next time we were all in the same room together was at Elvin’s wake, which was really rough. Anyhow, the beat goes on.” — Roy Haynes

He Could Be Light

“Everybody thinks about Elvin as being just powerful and loud. And, of course, when he opened up on the drums it was definitely strong but it was a beautiful ’loud.’ It was something warm that showered over you; it didn’t hit you. But also, he probably played the lightest on the cymbal of anyone. Elvin’s right hand, man, the way he played a cymbal is textbook perfect. And the beat that he had happening with the brushes was incredible. There’s a Kenny Burrell record that he plays great brushes on where they do ’Drum Boogie,’ and he plays his ass off. How he could shape the beat with sticks or brushes was pretty unbelievable.” — Matt Wilson

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