Jazz Birthday: Elvin Jones (1927)

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Elvin Jones said “Playing is not something I do at night. It’s my function in life.” He became interested in drumming at age 2, and by age 13 he was practicing 8-10 hours a day. Jones grew up in a musical family in which two brothers, Hank Jones (pianist) and Thad Jones (trumpet), also became famed jazz artists. Before moving to New York, Jones played at a Detroit’s Bluebird Inn where he accompanied all the jazz greats who passed through, as he later did in New York, before his close association with John Coltrane. To my ears, his drumming more often recalls the sounds of African percussion than the typical drummer, as he freely uses many rhythms together, hiding or suspending the conventional pulse and yet maintaining it embedded in complex patterns. Listening is like taking a trip away from a center point while later returning to it. Jones’s drumming is challenging. To appreciate his style, you may have to let go of what you may expect and enter his musical world. I’ve chosen a more conventional jazz standard (Night in Tunisia) in which you can hear his accompaniment of organist Joey DeFrancesco and also hear him solo. You can also see how they interact and create the music together.

2:22 am on September 9, 2012