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Exploring the Jazz of Post-Bop Drummer – Elvin Jones – Elvin!

Origianally Posted at FreeWheelin Jazz Safari – Sept 14, 2014

Among the Jazz birthdays on September 9th was post-bop drummer Elvin Jones. Jones was born in 1927 and was best known forElvin_Jones_3 his time with the John Coltrane Quartet.  Jones was born in Pontiac, Michigan and was one of  seven children of Henry and Olivia Jones. His family was very musical and his two older brothers Hank and Thad both became respected jazz musicians. Hank was a pianist and Thad played trumpet and coronet.

After  serving in the Army from 1946-49, Elvin moved to New York to make his way in jazz nusic. He played with a variety of musicians including Charles Mingus, Teddy Charles, Bud Powell, From 1960 to 1966 Jones was part of the John Coltrane Quartet with pianist McCoy Tyner and bassist Jimmy Garrison. It was during this period, that Coltrane recorded the classic album A Love Supreme. By 1966 Coltrane’s music was moving in a direction that didn’t really mesh with Jones drumming style. Coltrane added a second drummer, Rashied Ali and Jones departed.

From  the start of his career as a leader in 1961, through his time with Coltrane, extending until 1999 Jones released more than 40 albums as a leader and 30 plus albums as a sideman with artist like: Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Joe Farrell, Frank Foster, Ray Brown, John McLaughlin and Michael Brecker. Prior to joining Coltrane, Jones had played on and additional 30 plus albums.

Jones suffered heart failure and passed away in May of 2004. Over his last years he remained active even as his health was declining. He would sometimes even take the stage accompanied by his oxygen tank!

Over the last several days I have been listening to his debut album as a leader, Elvin! The album was recorded in July and Elvin!December of 1961 and January of 1962 and released in 1962 on the Riverside label. The album was produced by the legendary Orrin Keepnews.

The sextet that is featured on the album includes, in addtion to Elvin, his brothers Hank on piano, and Thad on coronet and trumpet, Frank Weiss on flute, Frank Foster on tenor saxophone, and bassist Art Davis. The first thing that caught my attention on this album aside from Jones drumming was Frank Weiss’ flute, I loved it!! After that, I noticed the great piano and wondered who was playing, it wasn’t until I read about the album, after several listens, that I found out that it was his brother Hank!  After I read, it was Hank, I smacked my head and said, duh. See I knew Hank Jones‘ name, but never connected the two, or for that matter throw in brother Thad and make that the three of them!!

Anyway I love the album and it certainly gets a grade of A from me, this album will definitely find a spot in my music library!! The album’s only drawback is that it contains only 7 tracks and is only 38 minutes in length!!!  As always I have a vast discography to explore along with the discographies of Hank and Thad Jones and Frank Weiss!!

Here’s the Elvin Jones Quartet circa 1979 Pat La Barbera – Sax, Ryo Kawasaki – Guitar, David Williams – Bass performing “The Card Molly! Go Elvin!!