Elvin Jones / Sept 9, 1927 - May 18, 2004

Happy birthday to Elvin Jones! The amazing polyrhythmic "heavy bop" drummer from Detroit was already a seasoned veteran of many years before he ever hooked up with John Coltrane. His intense drumming style largely changed the swing dynamic in jazz to a more African-inspired one, subsequently influencing a million drummers along the way, including rock legends Ginger Baker (whom he has played with) and Mitch Mitchell (Jimi: 'my Elvin Jones").

He came from Detroit, son of an auto worker and youngest brother to well-known pianist Hank and trumpeter Thad Jones (both of whom he'd collaborate with professionally). He played in school and bought his first kit in '49, kicking off a career that brought him to NYC in '55 where he found quick work with Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, JJ Johnson, Bud Powell, Raymond Scott, Donald Byrd, Quincy Jones (no relation), Steve Lacy, Randy Weston and others. Sonny Rollins' Night At The Village Vanguard ('57) was a killer.

He joined Trane's band during the Atlantic years and the famous Quartet revolutionized jazz until Elvin left Trane in '66. Much has been said about that, but he also continued creative projects during and after his time with John, working with his Trane associates, as well as Duke Ellington, Roland Kirk, Wayne Shorter, Oregon, Yusef Lateef, Ornette Coleman, Grant Green, Larry Young, Joe Henderson, Albert Mangelsdorff and his own excellent dates for Impulse!, Atlantic, Blue Note, Vanguard and other labels. He memorably appeared in the 1971 Western flick Zachariah, where he wins a shoot-out and takes a drum solo!

Later notable work included recordings with Pharoah Sanders, David Murray, Sonny Sharrock, Bill Frisell and 1998's Momentum Space, a trio with Cecil Taylor and Dewey Redman. In '99 played with grunge rock band Our Lady Peace. He spent a lot of time in Japan and was also an educator. He also gave concerts in prisons, being an ex-con himself. Truly one of the greatest ever!

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