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Elvin Jones: Alive & Recovering

We’ve received dozens of e-mails claiming that Elvin Jones (pictured) was dying and/or dead-all because of an e-mail sent to various places by Len Dobbin. Most of the e-mails addressed to JazzTimes about Jones were tinged with sadness, but some were filled with odd vitriol toward us for not immediately dignifying an unsubstantiated rumor that flew around Internet chat rooms and list-serves with the speed of the recent Sasser virus. Here was Lee Ann Carpenter’s charming note: “Elvin is dying and all you can write about is Diana Krall’s tour schedule? Excuse me, but aren’t you guys going to choke on all the fluff you produce?”

After JazzTimes cleared its collective throat and put down Kenny G’s summer concert itinerary, we contacted Adam Mansbach to set the record straight. Mansbach is the co-author of Elvin Jones’ forthcoming memoirs, Different Drummer (Da Capo). He agreed to have his response to our inquiry printed at because, he writes, “I know [the rumors] are quite disturbing to Elvin and [his wife] Keiko.”

I just called Keiko after reading your email. Elvin is alive and recuperating. I was at Yoshi’s with him all week, and while he was weak and has lost weight (and had difficulty playing at some points), the whole experience was, for me, tremendously uplifting: To see him walk onstage with an oxygen tank and proceed to not only play an entire set, but also an amazing fifteen-minute solo while the room was being cleared (as he did on two of the nights) was truly inspiring. Set by set, there was a lot of variation in terms of Elvin’s strength — largely due to whether or not he had the oxygen with him, which he only did about half the time. A lot of the reports circulating have seemingly been from people who only saw one set and thus didn’t really get a full picture. Elvin is certainly in very grave condition, but he’s still full of tremendous love — for the music and for life — and that, along with his many friends and loved ones, seems to be keeping him going.


Originally Published