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13 Drummers Remember Elvin Jones

One Of A Kind

“We go way back. I met Elvin in his early days with Trane. I was fond of him and I’m happy to say that we were friends. He was an original, which is saying a hell of a lot, because during that period, man, to be an original wasn’t easy. But he had his own personal style. It’s like whenever you heard him play you knew who it was, and he stayed that way throughout his career. He wasn’t influenced by anybody, as far as I know — he just did his thing. He was one of us. Just like Max, Roy, myself, Jo Jones, Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones; one of the cats.” — Chico Hamilton

Beat Relativity

“To experience his whole paradigm-shifting concept of time was just an epiphany. You got the feeling like he was ahead of the beat and behind the beat at the same time. He was the beat. He was wrapped around the beat in a way that was just stunning. He had all that plus his most beautiful range and his ability to coax the sound out of the drums in different ways. Just the way he touched the drums was spiritual. People come along sometimes and just change the entire landscape and the way that other people think of everything. Elvin was one of those people, no doubt. You were not the same after you listened to him.” — Bobby Previte

Those Amazing Triplets

“Elvin’s innovation was to triplitize the swing feel, which definitely made it more African and just wider. He had the widest groove of anybody, I think. And to watch him play was just the most inspiring. How he moved on the drums was so free and so loose and so beautifully physical. I mean, his dance was the most thrilling thing to watch. If you were a deaf person you could tell how great Elvin was playing by watching his body language. We’re not all the natural genius drummers that Elvin was because he was one of a kind and irreplaceable and untouchable. But it’s within our power to follow Elvin’s example — and the truth is, from now on, all my hits are dedicated to Elvin.” — Rakalam Bob Moses

A Chance Encounter

“The first time I hung out with Elvin was at Logan Airport in Boston. He had a layover and I had a layover so we had lunch and talked. I was working with Wynton [Marsalis] at the time and maybe he knew that, but it really didn’t matter what level I was on. Just the fact that I was trying to play was good enough for him. He would stare at me for a while without saying anything, which was kind of mysterious, but then at some point he said, ’It appears that you have a propensity for dealing with an abstract conception,’ and it came out of nowhere. And I was like, ’What do you mean? About music or about life?’ And he said, ’Aren’t they both the same thing?’” — Jeff “Tain” Watts

Final Words of Wisdom

“I went to Ipolito’s Drum Shop when I was about 15 years old and had a lesson with Elvin. And so he said, ’I really don’t know why you’d want to come and have a lesson when you can just come down to the Vanguard and see what I’m doing.’ And he also said, ’I can’t show you what to do, I can only give you some ideas about what not to do.’ And when you’re 15, that’s like ... huh? But then years later the clarity of that statement was so obvious. It was like I was at the fight and they rang the bell — ding! I realized what he was talking about.” — Adam Nussbaum

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