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Elvin Jones: At This Point In Time

Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones

An unhurried Labor Day weekend evening and a home-cooked meal at the modest, well-kept confines of the Manhattan home Jones shares with his wife, Keiko, provided the needed circumstances recently for an engaging, free-flowing conversation. Old musical memories (the family Victrola and his favorite Leadbelly and Blind Boy Fuller 78s) and more current concerns (frustrations involving work on the apartment) were addressed with equal interest and candor.

Jones was approaching his 75th birthday, with plans for an appropriate September 9 celebration, and the drummer’s long timeline provided countless topics for discussion: growing up in a prodigious musical family in Pontiac, Mich., younger brother to trumpeter Thad and pianist Hank; moving to New York for a (failed) audition with Benny Goodman; freelancing with a wide range of the modern jazz stars of the day, including Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Bud Powell, J.J. Johnson and Harry “Sweets” Edison; honing a singular, multirhythmic style that left many musicians and critics scratching their heads (“I’ll put it this way,” he once told Modern Drummer of his hungry days in New York, “my telephone didn’t ring as often as it could have”); and joining forces with John Coltrane in 1961, sparking one of the most influential melodic-rhythmic pairings in jazz, while spinning off his own career as a leader.

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Originally Published

Ashley Kahn

Ashley Kahn is a Grammy-winning American music historian, journalist, producer, and professor. He teaches at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute for Recorded Music, and has written books on two legendary recordings—Kind of Blue by Miles Davis and A Love Supreme by John Coltrane—as well as one book on a legendary record label: The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records. He also co-authored the Carlos Santana autobiography The Universal Tone, and edited Rolling Stone: The Seventies, a 70-essay overview of that pivotal decade.