Elvin Ray Jones (September 9, 1927 – May 18, 2004)



Elvin Ray Jones (September 9, 1927 – May 18, 2004) was an American jazz drummer of the post-bop era.[1] He showed an interest in drums at a young age, watching the circus bands march by his family's home in Pontiac, Michigan. He served in the United States Army from 1946 to 1949 and subsequently played in a Detroit house band led by Billy Mitchell. He moved to New York City in 1955 and worked as a sideman for Charles MingusTeddy CharlesBud Powell and Miles Davis.[1]

From 1960 to 1966, he was a member of the John Coltrane quartet (along with Jimmy Garrison on bass and McCoy Tyner on piano), a celebrated recording phase, appearing on such albums as A Love Supreme and Live at Birdland. Following his work with Coltrane, Jones led several small groups, some under the name The Elvin Jones Jazz Machine. His brothers Hank Jones and Thad Jones were also jazz musicians with whom he recorded.[1] He was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1995.[2]


Elvin Jones was born in Pontiac, Michigan, United States,[3] to parents Henry and Olivia Jones, who had moved to Michigan from Vicksburg, Mississippi. His two elder brothers, Hank Jones and Thad Jones, both became jazz musicians respectively on piano and trumpet. By age two, he said he knew he held a fascination for drums. He would watch the circus marching band parades go by his home as a boy, particularly fascinated by the drummers.

Following his early passion, Elvin joined his high school's black marching band, where he developed his foundation in rudiments. Jones began service in the United States Armyin 1946. He was discharged in 1949. With his mustering-out pay and an additional $35 (US$376 in 2019 dollars[4]) borrowed from his sister, Jones purchased his first drumset.[5]




Jones began his professional career in 1949 with a short-lived gig in Detroit's Grand River Street club. Eventually he went on to play with artists including Miles Davis and Wardell Gray. In 1955, after a failed audition for the Benny Goodman band, he found work in New York City, joining Charles Mingus's for the Blue Moods album on Mingus's co-owned Debut label.[citation needed] During the late 1950s, Jones was a member of a Sonny Rollins trio that recorded most of the album A Night at the Village Vanguard, an album cited as a high point for both Rollins and for 1950s jazz in general.[6][7]


In 1960, he began playing with John Coltrane.[3] By 1962, he had become an integral member of the classic John Coltrane Quartet along with bassist Jimmy Garrison and pianist McCoy Tyner.[3] Jones and Coltrane would often play extended duet passages. This band is widely considered to have redefined "swing" (the rhythmic feel of jazz) in much the same way that Louis ArmstrongCharlie Parker, and others had done during earlier stages of jazz's development. He stayed with Coltrane until 1966. By then, Jones was not entirely comfortable with Coltrane's new direction, especially as his polyrhythmic style clashed with the "multidirectional" approach of the group's second drummer, Rashied Ali.

Elvin Jones at Keystone KornerSan Francisco, California. April 22, 1980.


Jones remained active after leaving the Coltrane group, and led several bands in the late 1960s and 1970s that are considered influential groups. Notable among them was a trio formed with saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Joe Farrell and (ex-Coltrane) bassist Jimmy Garrison, with whom he recorded the Blue Note album Puttin' It Together. Jones recorded extensively for Blue Note under his own name in the late 1960s and early 1970s with groups that featured prominent as well as up and coming musicians. The two-volume Live at the Lighthouse showcases a 21- and 26-year-old Steve Grossman and Dave Liebman, respectively. Jones played on many albums of the modal jazz era, such as The Real McCoy with McCoy Tyner as well as on saxophonist Wayne Shorter's Speak No Evil.

Other musicians who made significant contributions to Jones's music during this period were baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, tenor saxophonists George Coleman and Frank Foster, trumpeter Lee Morgan, bassist Gene Perla, keyboardist Jan Hammer and jazzworld music group Oregon.

He appeared as the villain Job Cain in the 1971 musical Western film Zachariah,[8] in which he performed a drum solo after winning a saloon gunfight.[8]

Jones performed and recorded with his own group, the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, whose line up changed through the years. Both Sonny Fortune and Ravi Coltrane, John Coltrane's son, played saxophone with the Jazz Machine in the early 1990s, appearing together with Jones on In Europe on Enja Records in 1991. 

Jones, who taught regularly, often took part in clinics, played in schools, and gave free concerts in prisons. His lessons emphasized music history as well as drumming technique. In 2001, Jones was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music.[9]


Elvin Jones died of heart failure in Englewood, New Jersey on May 18, 2004.[10] He was survived by his first wife Shirley and his common-law second wife Keiko (Elvin married Keiko before divorcing Shirley, meaning that legally he and Keiko were not married), in addition to his son Elvin Nathan Jones of California and daughter Rose-Marie Rosie Jones of Sweden.[citation needed]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Elvin Jones among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[11]


Jones' sense of timing, polyrhythmsdynamicstimbre, and legato phrasing helped bring the drumset to the foreground. Life Magazine once called Jones "the world's greatest rhythmic drummer", and his free-flowing style was a major influence on many leading drummers, including Christian VanderMitch Mitchell (whom Jimi Hendrix called "my Elvin Jones"), Ginger BakerJohn Densmore and Janet Weiss.


1958 Keepin' Up with the Joneses The Jones Brothers: Thad JonesHank Jones with Eddie Jones MetroJazz
1961 Together! Philly Joe JonesBlue MitchellCurtis FullerHank MobleyWynton KellyPaul Chambers Atlantic
1961 Elvin! Frank WessFrank FosterArt DavisHank JonesThad Jones Riverside
1963 Illumination! Jimmy GarrisonPrince LashaSonny SimmonsCharles DavisMcCoy Tyner Impulse!
1965 Dear John C. Richard Davis, Hank Jones, Roland HannaCharlie Mariano Impulse!
1965 And Then Again J. J. Johnson, Frank Wess, Charles Davis, Don Friedman, Paul Chambers, Thad JonesHank JonesArt Davis Atlantic
1966 Midnight Walk Thad JonesHank MobleyDollar BrandSteve JamesDon Moore Atlantic
1967 Heavy Sounds Richard Davis, Frank Foster, Billy Greene Impulse!
1968 Live at the Village Vanguard Wilbur LittleGeorge ColemanMarvin Peterson Enja
1968 Puttin' It Together Joe FarrellJimmy Garrison Blue Note
1968 The Ultimate Jimmy Garrison, Joe Farrell Blue Note
1969 Poly-Currents George Coleman, Joe Farrell, Pepper Adams, Wilbur Little, Candido CameroFred Tompkins Blue Note
1970 Coalition George Coleman, Frank Foster, Wilbur Little, Candido Camero, Blue Note
1971 Genesis Gene Perla, Frank Foster, Dave Liebman, Joe Farrell Blue Note
1971 Merry-Go-Round Dave Liebman, Steve Grossman, Joe Farrell, Chick CoreaJan HammerDon AliasGene Perla Blue Note
1971 Elvin Jones Live: The Town Hall Gene Perla, Chick Corea, Joe Farrell, Frank Foster PM Records
1972 Mr. Jones Joe Farrell, Pepper Adams, Dave Liebman, Jan HammerGene Perla Blue Note
1972 Live at the Lighthouse Dave Liebman, Steve Grossman, Gene Perla Blue Note
1973 At This Point in Time Steve Grossman, Pepper Adams, Jan Hammer Blue Note
1973 The Prime Element George Coleman, Joe Farrell, Lee Morgan, Pepper Adams, Steve Grossman, Frank Foster Blue Note
1975 Mr. Thunder Steve Grossman, Roland Prince, Milton Suggs, Luis Agudo, Sjunne Ferger East West
1975 Elvin Jones is "On the Mountain" Jan HammerGene Perla PM
1975 New Agenda Steve Grossman, Roland Prince, Dave Williams Vanguard
1976 The Main Force Ryo KawasakiAl Dailey, Dave Liebman Vanguard
1976 Summit Meeting James MoodyClark TerryBunky Green, Roland Prince Vanguard
1977 Time Capsule Bunky Green, Kenny Barron, Angel Allende, Ryo Kawasaki, Frank Wess, Milt Hinton, Frank Foster, George Coleman, Junie Booth Vanguard
1978 Remembrance Pat LaBarberaMichael Stuart, Roland Prince, Andy McCloud III MPS
1978 Elvin Jones Music Machine Frank Foster, Pat LaBarbera, Roland Prince, Andy McCloud III Mark Levison (Japan)
1978 Live in Japan 1978: Dear John C. Frank Foster, Pat LaBarbera, Roland Prince, Andy McCloud III Trio (Japan)
1978 Elvin Jones Jazz Machine Live in Japan Vol. 2 Frank Foster, Pat LaBarbera, Roland Prince, Andy McCloud III Trio (Japan)
1979 Very R.A.R.E. Art PepperSir Roland HannaRichard Davis (bassist) Trio (Japan)
1980 Soul Train Andrew WhiteRichard "Ari" Brown, Marvin Horne, Andy McCloud III Denon
1980 Heart to Heart Tommy Flanagan, Richard Davis Denon
1982 Earth Jones Kenny Kirkland, Dave Liebman, Terumasa HinoGeorge Mraz Palo Alto
1982 Love & Peace McCoy Tyner, Pharoah SandersJean-Paul Bourelly, Richard Davis Trio (Japan)
1982 Brother John Kenny Kirkland, Reggie Workman, Pat LaBarbera Palo Alto
1984 Live at the Village Vanguard Volume One Frank Foster, Pat LaBarbera, Fumio KarashimaChip Jackson Landmark
1985 Elvin Jones Jazz Machine Live at Pit Inn Sonny Fortune, Pat LaBarbera, Fumio Karashima, Richard Davis Polydor (Japan)
1990 Power Trio John HicksCecil McBee Novus
1990 When I Was at Aso-Mountain Sonny Fortune, Takehisa Tanaka, Cecil McBee Enja
1991 In Europe Sonny Fortune, Ravi ColtraneWillie Pickens, Chip Jackson Enja
1992 Youngblood Joshua RedmanJavon JacksonNicholas Payton, George Mraz Enja
1992 Going Home Willie Pickens, Ravi Coltrane, Kent Jordan, Brad Jones, Nicholas Payton Enja
1992 Tribute to John Coltrane "A Love Supreme" Wynton MarsalisMarcus Roberts, Reginald Veal Columbia (Japan)
1993 It Don't Mean a Thing Nicholas Payton, Sonny Fortune, Delfeayo Marsalis, Willie Pickens, Cecil McBee, Kevin Mahogany Enja
1998 Momentum Space Cecil TaylorDewey Redman Verve
1999 The Truth: Heard Live at the Blue Note Darren BarrettRobin EubanksCarlos McKinneyMichael Brecker Half Note



1948 Swing...Not Spring! Billy Mitchell Savoy Records
1955 Blue Moods Miles Davis Debut Records
1956 Farmer's Market Art Farmer New Jazz
1956 J Is for Jazz J. J. Johnson Columbia Records
1957 After the Party's Over Aaron Bell RCA Victor
1957 Overseas Tommy Flanagan Prestige
1957 Paul Chambers Quintet Paul Chambers Blue Note
1957 Dial J. J. 5 J. J. Johnson Columbia
1957 The Cool Sound of Pepper Adams Pepper Adams Regent
1957 Kenny Burrell Kenny Burrell Prestige
1957 Night at the Village Vanguard Sonny Rollins Blue Note
1957 Mad Thad Thad Jones Period
1957 Olio Thad Jones and the Prestige All Stars Prestige
1957 Roots Idrees Sulieman and the Prestige All Stars New Jazz
1958 Mal/3: Sounds Mal Waldron Prestige
1958 Reflections Steve Lacy New Jazz
1958 The Pepper-Knepper Quintet Pepper Adams and Jimmy Knepper MetroJazz
1958 10 to 4 at the 5 Spot Pepper Adams Riverside
1958 Keepin' Up With The Joneses Thad Jones Metrojazz
1958 Soul Stirrin' Bennie Green Blue Note
1958 Porgy and Bess Hank Jones Capitol
1959 All the Gin Is Gone Jimmy Forrest Delmark Records
1959 Destry Rides Again Randy Weston United Artists
1959 Sliding Easy Curtis Fuller United Artists
1959 Brass Shout Art Farmer United Artists
1959 Black Forrest Jimmy Forrest Delmark Records
1959 Great Jazz Standards Gil Evans World Pacific
1959 Sketches of Spain Miles Davis Columbia Records
1959 Motor City Scene Thad Jones United Artists
1960 Stringsville Harry Lookofsky Collectables
1960 Keep Swingin' Julian Priester Riverside Records
1960 Coltrane Plays the Blues John Coltrane Atlantic
1960 Coltrane's Sound John Coltrane Atlantic
1960 My Favorite Things John Coltrane Atlantic
1961 Out Of The Cool Gil Evans Impulse!
1961 Preminado Barry Harris Riverside Records
1961 Coltrane Jazz (only on 1 track) John Coltrane Atlantic
1961 Africa/Brass John Coltrane Impulse!
1961 Live! at the Village Vanguard John Coltrane Impulse!
1961 A Story Tale Clifford Jordan and Sonny Red Jazzland
1961 Into Something Yusef Lateef New Jazz
1961 Motion Lee Konitz Verve
1962 Ready for Freddie Freddie Hubbard Blue Note
1962 Pony's Express Pony Poindexter Epic
1962 Duke Ellington & John Coltrane John Coltrane, Duke Ellington Impulse!
1962 Ballads John Coltrane Impulse!
1962 Coltrane John Coltrane Impulse!
1962 Inception McCoy Tyner Impulse!
1963 Today and Tomorrow McCoy Tyner Impulse!
1963 Conflict Jimmy Woods Contemporary
1963 Here's Love Hank Jones Argo
1963 Impressions John Coltrane Impulse!
1963 Both Directions at Once: the Lost Album John Coltrane Impluse!
1963 John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman John Coltrane Impulse!
1963 Live at Birdland John Coltrane Impulse!
1964 Crescent John Coltrane Impulse!
1964 A Love Supreme John Coltrane Impulse!
1964 Judgment! Andrew Hill Blue Note
1964 Stan Getz & Bill Evans Stan GetzBill Evans Verve
1964 Bob Brookmeyer and Friends Bob Brookmeyer Verve
1964 Night Dreamer Wayne Shorter Blue Note
1964 JuJu Wayne Shorter Blue Note
1964 Speak No Evil Wayne Shorter Blue Note
1964 McCoy Tyner Plays Ellington McCoy Tyner Impulse!
1964 Matador Grant Green Blue Note
1964 Street of Dreams Grant Green Blue Note
1964 Solid Grant Green Blue Note
1964 Talkin' About! Grant Green Blue Note
1964 In 'N Out Joe Henderson Blue Note
1964 Inner Urge Joe Henderson Blue Note
1964 Into Somethin' Larry Young Blue Note
1964 The Individualism of Gil Evans Gil Evans Verve
1965 Unity Larry Young Blue Note
1965 Rip, Rig and Panic Roland Kirk Limelight
1965 I Want to Hold Your Hand Grant Green Blue Note
1965 The John Coltrane Quartet Plays John Coltrane Impulse!
1965 Om John Coltrane Impulse!
1965 New Thing at Newport John Coltrane Impulse!
1965 Transition John Coltrane Impulse!
1965 First Meditations John Coltrane Impulse!
1965 Living Space John Coltrane Impulse!
1965 Sun Ship John Coltrane Impulse!
1965 Meditations John Coltrane Impulse!
1965 Kulu Sé Mama John Coltrane Impulse!
1965 Live at the Half Note: One Down, One Up John Coltrane Impulse!
1966 Live In Seattle John Coltrane Impulse!
1966 East Broadway Run Down Sonny Rollins Impulse!
1966 Blue Spirits Freddie Hubbard Blue Note
1967 The Lee Konitz Duets Lee Konitz Milestone
1967 The Real McCoy McCoy Tyner Blue Note
1967 Sunshine of My Soul Jaki Byard Prestige
1968 Lady Coryell Larry Coryell Vanguard Records
1968 New York Is Now! Ornette Coleman Blue Note
1968 Love Call Ornette Coleman Blue Note
1968 Encounter! Pepper Adams Prestige
1969 Feeling Free Barney Kessel Contemporary
1969 Please Send Me Someone to Love Phineas Newborn, Jr. Contemporary
1969 Harlem Blues Phineas Newborn, Jr. Contemporary
1969 Blues in Orbit Gil Evans Enja
1970 Extensions McCoy Tyner Blue Note
1971 Outback Joe Farrell CTI
1972 The Loud Minority Frank Foster Mainstream
1973 Capra Black Billy Harper Strata-East
1974 I Love You Elek Bacsik Bob Thiele Music
1975 Trident McCoy Tyner Milestone
1975 The Peacocks Stan Getz and Jimmie Rowles Columbia
1976 Together Oregon Vanguard Records
1976 The Trip Art Pepper Contemporary
1976 Back Home Phineas Newborn, Jr. Contemporary
1977 Eclypso / Confirmation Tommy Flanagan Enja
1977 Well Water Frank Foster Piadrum (released 2007)
1977 Beyond the Rain Chico Freeman Contemporary
1977 Something for Lester Ray Brown Contemporary
1977 Thursday Night at the Village Vanguard Art Pepper Contemporary
1977 Friday Night at the Village Vanguard Art Pepper Contemporary
1977 Saturday Night at the Village Vanguard Art Pepper Contemporary
1977 More for Les at the Village Vanguard Art Pepper Contemporary
1980 Super-Session Tommy Flanagan Enja
1981 Rejoice Pharoah Sanders Theresa
1982 Big Jim's Tango Bennie Wallace Enja
1987 But Beautiful Lew Soloff King Records
1987 Magical Trio 2 James Williams Emarcy
1989 The Truth is Spoken Here Marcus Roberts BMG Music
1990 Special Quartet David Murray DIW/Columbia
1991 African Exchange Student Kenny Garrett Atlantic
1991 Ask the Ages Sonny Sharrock Axiom
1991 Me And Mr. Jones Javon Jackson Criss Cross
1993 Upon Reflection - The Music Of Thad Jones Hank Jones Verve
1993 One For Namesake Robert Hurst DIW
1995 Into The Frying Pan Greg Packham Packed Records
1995 After the Rain John McLaughlin Verve
1995 The Main Ingredient Shirley Horn Verve
1997 Awesome! James Williams DIW
1998 Trio Fascination: Edition One Joe Lovano Blue Note
1999 Jones for Elvin - Volumes 1 and 2 Steve Griggs Hip City Music
1999 Time Is of the Essence Michael Brecker Verve
2000 Stefano di Battista Stefano di Battista Blue Note
2001 With Dave Holland and Elvin Jones Bill Frisell Nonesuch Records
2002 Autumn Leaves The Great Jazz Trio Eighty-Eight's
2002 Someday My Prince Will Come The Great Jazz Trio Eighty-Eight's
2002 Collaboration The Great Jazz Trio Eighty-Eight's