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05/19/2004 Entry: "Elvin Jones is dead"

Elvin Jones died today. He was 76. About two weeks ago a rumor spread that he had died. He hadn't, but he was very sick. No rumor this time, though.

Elvin is probably known to most as the drummer for Coltrane. He is for me the drummer from both sides of the Jazz spectrum. When he needed to play hard, the man was an animal. He would hit so hard. Keith Moon had nothing on him as far as how hard he could swing. Elvin had arms like a ballplayer. Big, muscular guy. And when he went off, look out. His playing was almost angry. Like an angry mad-man beating up a set of drums. I'm not kidding.

But on the extreme other side, he was a tender ballad player. The John Coltrane/Johnny Hartman album of ballads is a regular in my listening. And Elvin played them so tenderly.

Elvin also played the kit with mallets. Brushes are a lost art, yes. But playing the kit with mallets is so lost that people don't even realize they were there to be lost. I love to play ballads with mallets. I would bet if you asked the local musicians around here how many drummers had they played with that used mallets on a kit, I'd bet very few would say they'd ever played with someone who'd done it, and most of those who had seen it done were probably playing with me. Everything I know about playing mallets on the kit I stole from Elvin--no lie. Try and find a picture of a drummer playing the kit with mallets. You'll find a rare Chico Hamilton, and the other 99.9% will be Elvin.

Replies: 1 person has rocked the mic!

One of my favorite musical memories was seeing The Elvin Jones Jazz Machine live at Yoshi (sushi & jazz club in Oakland, CA) in 1998. They were so good, I caught the second night too. Got to meet him and hung out with the bass player out in front of the club for a bit between sets. A true gentleman and a giant of the musical world. RIP Elvin ... you deserve to take the long 5.

Posted by Paddy @ 05/19/2004 11:07 PM EST

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