Elvin Jones, drummer with the John Coltrane Quartet in the 60s, and one of the most original and inspirational drummers in the history of jazz, died yesterday.
And here’s a re-post of something I posted over in the dudepit discussion board a few weeks ago when it was reported that Elvin was seriously ill, about the one time I got to play with Elvin…
I once got to play with Elvin, at a clinic at the drum school I was teaching at. It was before I’d really started to listen to the Coltrane Quartet (I now own about 20 Coltrane albums, and have listened to Elvin more than any other jazz drummer…), and I was pretty rubbish, but Elvin just kept on grinning, giving me really obvious signs as to where the form was going, taking me with him. He could’ve made me look a fool, but instead did what great musicians do – play to make the band look good.
At the end, as people were applauding, he said ‘these are the cats’ about the guitarist, and I, even though it was clear to anyone with a pair of ears that we really weren’t…
Afterwards, he came over and said, ‘man, that scared the shit outta me – I haven’t played with an electric bassist in 25 years – I’m not used to HEARING to bass, just feeling it’
I’ll never forget either the fear of playing with him beforehand, or that feeling of him holding me up when I could so easily have falling on my arse. A pivotal moment in my playing career.
Today is a day to remember one of the pivotal figures in the development of jazz, and one of my all-time favourite drummers. Those moments at the end of a lot of a the Coltrane live recordings where McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison drop out and leave ‘Trane and Elvin to go at it as a duo as an extended firey cadenza to the tune are some of the most sublime moments in recorded music – two hugely innovative and gifted musicians exploring the outer limits of where their music can take them.
Soundtrack – right now, clatter, ‘blinded by vision’, which just arrived this morning and is excellent but will soon make way for a day of Coltrane…by