RIP, Elvin Jones

Reuters: Elvin Jones of the John Coltrane Quartet Dies. While not a surprise (he played his last gig a week or two ago with an oxygen tank on stage), this is still sad news. For years Elvin was one of the most vital forces in jazz, and his powerfully propulsive drum style was a foundation for the John Coltrane Quartet’s sound—and for his own solo career.

I saw Elvin play in a small theater at the University of Virginia on February 19, 1993, at Virginia’s late lamented JazzFest (alas, this is the only web evidence I can find for the shows). I didn’t try to write down my impressions at the time, but I remember thinking that in a festival that was dedicated to Coltrane and swimming in jazz giants, he easily stole the show (and stole the set from Ravi Coltrane, the late saxophone giant’s son, who was playing with Elvin’s band). His physical presence—big, muscular, imposing—was secondary only to his musical presence. Without my notes, the best I can do is point to this description of Elvin’s playing, which squares pretty well with my memory of the set in Old Cabell Hall.

Fare thee well, Elvin.