Elvin Jones Day

September 9, 1927 – May 18, 2004


Afro Blue

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Drummer Elvin Jones was born on September 9, 1927, in Pontiac, Michigan.

He is the brother of fellow jazz musicians Thad and Hank.

Upon returning home from the army in 1949, Elvin borrowed $35 from his sister to buy his first drum set.

His unique sense of swing and penchant for polyrhythm influenced drummers in genres outside of jazz.

First becoming interested in drumming as a young boy watching circus bands parade past his childhood home in Pontiac, Michigan, Elvin Jones would join his high school’s marching band.

He launched his career as a professional drummer at Detroit’s Grand River Street club in 1949 before finding work playing behind Miles Davis and Wardell Gray.

Jones would go on to join John Coltrane’s Quartet in 1960 beginning an extremely important creative period during which he and the band would redefine jazz rhythm.

Elvin led a number of groups and recorded extensively for Blue Note after leaving Coltrane in 1966, among the first was a trio featuring saxophonist Joe Farrell and bassist Jimmy Garrison.

He proceeded to perform and record extensively under his own name throughout the ’60s and ’70s working with McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter, Pepper Adams, George Coleman, Frank Foster, and Lee Morgan, as well as young up-and-coming musicians Steve Grossman and Dave Liebman.

Eventually forming Elvin Jones Jazz Machine the group underwent a number of personnel changes over the years and featured John Coltrane’s son playing saxophone during the early ’90s.

While teaching drumming and playing with his band on a regular basis, the percussionist also found time to perform in schools and give free prison concerts.

On May 18, 2004, Elvin Jones died from a heart attack in Englewood, New Jersey.

Elvin Jones is featured as a member of the “John Coltrane Quartet” during their 1960s appearance on the TV show “Jazz Casual”.

Originally composed by Mongo Santamaria, Coltrane added to the harmonic complexity of the tune and Jones adapted the beat to a 3/4 jazz waltz rhythm (the same he used on “My Favorite Things.”)

The tune, in its original rhythmic form, was the first jazz standard built on an African 3/2 cross-rhythm.


John Coltrane, soprano sax
McCoy Tyner, piano
Jimmy Garrison, bass
Elvin Jones, drums


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