A Visionary Drummer: Elvin Jones Post Bop Drummer with Poly-rhythmics

Written By Sonny Akbar Sembada

Hi, my name is Sonny Akbar Sembada and I welcome you to my blog, The Uncle Jazz. The main topic of my blog is everything related to jazz music.. 

Let’s reminisce about a visionary drummer Elvin Jones, the jazz drumming maestro, born on September 9, 1927, in Pontiac, Michigan, as the youngest among ten siblings.

Interestingly, his father was part of the General Motors crew. Talk about a rhythm-filled family! Notably, two of Elvin’s siblings, Hank (on the piano) and Thad (handling the trumpet/flugelhorn), were also jazz enthusiasts.

A Visionary Drummer Elvin Jones

A visionary drummer Elvin embarked on his musical journey in the 1940s, taking on gigs with the Army Special Services and Operation Happiness. Fast forward to 1949, and he’s making waves at a Detroit venue under the leadership of the renowned Billy Mitchell.

Shaping the Jazz Landscape

Let’s dive into his influence. a visionary drummer Elvin Jones wasn’t just a drummer; he was THE drummer. His freestyle beats left an indelible mark on legends like Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Bill Bruford (YES), John Densmore (The Doors), and even Ginger Baker (Cream).

Shaping the Jazz Landscape
image source: jazziz.com

When it comes to gigs, Elvin shared the stage with heavyweights like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Wardell Gray. In ’55, after a slight hiccup trying to join Benny Goodman’s crew, he found his rhythm in New York, teamed up with Charles Mingus, and dropped the record “J is for Jazz.” And that was just the beginning – he filled in for Teddy Charles, Bud Powell, and Miles Davis, proving he was the go-to guy.

Youtube video by The Genius Of Elvin Jones 

The Coltrane Connection

In the ’60s, a visionary drummer Elvin teamed up with the iconic John Coltrane, forming a quartet that shook the jazz world. Picture this: Elvin, Coltrane, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and pianist McCoy Tyner. It was a musical powerhouse, redefining the very essence of “swing.”

But all good things come to an end, right? Elvin rode with Coltrane until ’66, feeling a bit out of sync with the new vibes. Drummer clashes, my friends – it happens.

Read also: Jazz Odyssey Reverie: Lorraine Feather’s Enchanting Vocal Tale

Life Beyond Coltrane

Post-Coltrane era, Elvin didn’t miss a beat. He grooved with Duke Ellington, cooked up his own crew called the Jazz Machine, and they kept the musical mojo alive. Life even crowned him the “world’s greatest rhythmic drummer.”

Teaching, clinics, school gigs – Elvin did it all. He even jammed for free in prisons, spreading the rhythm and love for music. The guy passed away on May 18, 2004, in Englewood, New Jersey, leaving behind a legacy that’s still beating strong. Cheers to you, Elvin Ray Jones!

Did you like the article A Visionary Drummer: Elvin Jones Post Bop Drummer with Poly-rhythmics? share it with friends.

Leave a Comment

The Uncle Jazz is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission.