Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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JONES, Elvin

(b 9 September 1927, Pontiac MI; d 8 May 2004) Drummer; younger brother of Hank and Thad Jones. He worked with them in Detroit; then to NYC '56, working with Pepper Adams/Donald Byrd quintet and others; then with John Coltrane's quartet '60-65, probably the perfect drummer for the most influential combo of that decade, joining the line of Jo Jones with Count Basie in the late '30s, Max Roach during the bop era and Philly Joe Jones with Miles Davis in the '50s in advancing the frontier of the possible in the rhythm sections of mainstream black music. His hands and feet appeared to be four separate entities, the overall dynamic a 'circle of sound': intensely rhythmic, supporting soloists, yet yearning towards more freedom, as Coltrane did. Such a strong musical personality did not like playing with another drummer when Coltrane added Rashied Ali (although his first LP as leader, Together '61 on Atlantic, included Philly Joe); anyway the era of the Coltrane quartet seemed to be over as its leader pursued experiments. Jones joined Duke Ellington in Europe early '66 but left him after a few days; he led iconoclastic lineups thereafter, usually without brass and often without keyboards, well documented on records, as well as doing clinics, free concerts in prisons, etc.

His albums included Elvin! '61-2 on Riverside, And Then Again '65 on Atlantic with his brothers; Illumination '63 on Impulse was co-led by Jimmy Garrison, with McCoy Tyner and three others; Dear John C early '65 on Impulse was a quartet with Charlie Mariano on alto, Richard Davis on bass, Hank or Roland Hanna on piano. Sextet Midnight Walk on Atlantic featured Thad, Hank Mobley, Dollar Brand; Heavy Sounds on Impulse was a quartet with Davis, Frank Foster and Billy Greene on piano, while trios Puttin' It Together and The Ultimate on Blue Note initiate his pianoless era, with Garrison on bass and Joe Farrell on tenor, soprano and flutes, all '68. On Blue Note: quintet The Prime Element '69 had Farrell, George Coleman, Lee Morgan, Wilbur Little on bass (b 5 March '28, Parmele NC, a valuable sideman on many records), plus extra percussion; Poly-Currents '69 had Farrell (English horn on one track), Pepper Adams, Coleman, Little, Fred Tomkins on flute on two tracks (composed 'Concerto For Two Flutes'); Mr. Jones same month had the same cast without Tomkins; Coalition '70 was without Adams. Genesis '71 had three reeds: Foster, Farrell and Dave Liebman (b 4 Sep. '46, Brooklyn; worked with Miles Davis '73-4; own LPs on PM, ECM, Horizon), Gene Perla on bass (b 1 March '40 NJ); Merry-Go-Round '71 had eleven pieces, restoring the keyboard with both Chick Corea and Jan Hammer, and five reeds: Farrell, Liebman, Foster, Adams and Steve Grossman (b 18 Jan. '51, Brooklyn); Live At The Lighthouse same year was a quartet with Grossman, Liebman and Perla; The Prime Element '73 had eleven pieces again including extra percussion, Hammer on mini-Moog as well as pianos. Four LPs called Sky Scrapers c'70 on Honeydew label were by a trio (Coleman and Little), adding trumpeter Marvin 'Hannibal' Peterson on the last; Live At The Town Hall '71 on PM had Corea, Perla, Farrell, Foster. Live At The Village Vanguard '73 on Enja with Coleman and Little had Peterson on one track; quintet Mr Thunder was made in Warsaw on Polish and French labels; Elvin Jones Is On The Mountain '75 on PM had Perla and Hammer (adding synth to the keyboards). On Vanguard: New Agenda '75, The Main Force '76, Time Capsule '77 and Summit Meeting '76 had eight or nine pieces (the last with James Moody, Al Dailey, Clark Terry); quartet LP Very R.A.R.E. '79 had Art Pepper, Hanna, Davis. Remembrance '78 on MPS/Pausa was made in Stuttgart; quintet Soul Trane with Andrew White and piano trio Heart To Heart with Davis and Tommy Flanagan '80 were on Denon; Earth Jones and Brother John '82 were on Palo Alto; also LPs on Enja with Flanagan as leader. Reunited '86 on Blackhawk was co-led with Tyner, including Pharoah Sanders, Richard Davis on bass, Jean-Paul Bourelly on guitar (Love And Peace on Evidence CD is by the Jones/Tyner Quintet). Jazz Machine albums on Enja Goin' Home, In Europe (both these with young Ravi Coltrane) and It Don't Mean A Thing '93 all included underrated Chicago pianist Willie Pickens (grew up in Milwaukee, taught at Wendell Phillips High School); there were others on Enja and Evidence. Most of his albums were out of print '97 but that still left 15 listed in Schwann, and the rest of his powerful work will always make tempting reissues.