Category: Jones, Elvin

Smithsonian Oral Histories: Elvin Jones 2003

elvinJonesFor the next couple weeks, I am going to be linking to audio clips and transcriptions from the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program. Established by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 1992, the Program documents more than one hundred senior jazz musicians, performers, relatives, and business associates.  The interviews average six hours in length and cover a wide range of topics including early years, initial involvement in music, generally, and jazz specifically, as well as experiences in the jazz music world, including relationships to musicians. The transcriptions are complete, the audio are shorter clips from the interviews.

Here is the great Elvin Jones in 2003. The full transcript is 113 pages, and in these five clips, Elvin talks about cymbals, being captivated by the drums, being inspired by Duke Ellington, he compares drums to crayons, and he talks about learning by listening. Here from the transcript, he discusses fellow drumming great Philly Joe Jones:

He was funny boy! He was a comedian. But he was a great drummer. Joe played things on his instrument that were just phenomenal. Joe was flamboyant. He used to show guys how to play with your fingers. You think he’s doing it with his wrist but he’s doing it with his fingers. (Elvin imitates sound of fast single strokes of a drum being played by one hand). He had many tricks like that. He’s such a good musician and when he played he always—it seems like everything he did was thought out, like it had already been through his mind. He played with tremendous skill and the dynamics were always unbelievable. It was just enjoyable to listen to a man like that. And he was with a good band like Miles Davis. He couldn’t be in a better position.

Click here to listen to and read Smithsonian Oral Histories: Elvin Jones 2003 

—Peter Blasevick

Elvin Jones: Drumming Icon is Still Cooking

Great interviews with great Jazz drummers this week. Today is a nice long 2004 interview with the legendary Elvin Jones from From the interview, here is the master talking about his love of Jazz music:

“I always thought that great music is a challenge,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any music greater or a lot more exciting than jazz music, because it’s pure. You hear things that nobody’s ever played before and you hear things that are almost impossible for anyone to duplicate. It’s being done and you hear music that is so beautiful; it makes you weep; it’s more than anything any classical composers have written can be. It compares equally with some of the best that’s ever been done.”

Click here to read Elvin Jones: Drumming Icon is Still Cooking

The Magnificent Life of Elvin Jones

September 9th is the birthday of the great Elvin Jones, so today I’ll list a great combination interview and retrospective piece (Jones had just passed earlier that May) originally published in the August/September 2004 issue of DRUM! Magazine by Robert Doerschuk, with the original interview by Mike Sherpa.

Early in the interview, the legendary drummer talks about his two famous older brothers:

“From 13 to maybe 21 I didn’t even see them,” Elvin says. “Hank would go out with his trios and with Ella Fitzgerald, Jazz At The Philharmonic, and all of that. Thad was out in the Southwest, in Oklahoma and Missouri and Kansas, places like that, working with what they used to term ’territory bands.’ When he came home, of course, I thought he was an accomplished musician. He could do a lot of things that I’d heard Dizzy Gillespie do and all the things I’d heard Miles Davis do — and I thought he did them twice as good. He knew a lot about harmony, so he was a great arranger. When he was with Basie, for instance, he could do arrangements on the bus without benefit of a piano or anything else, and all of his music was extremely accurate — hardly any corrections. He was able to unleash his talent and do what he desired.”

Click here to read The Magnificent Life of Elvin Jones