Elvin Ray Jones (September 9, 1927 – May 18, 2004) was a jazz drummer of the post-bop era. He showed an interest in drums at a young age, watching the circus bands march by his family’s home in Pontiac, Michigan.
He served in the United States Army from 1946 to 1949 and subsequently played in a Detroit houseband led by Billy Mitchell. He moved to New York in 1955 and worked as a sideman for Charles Mingus, Teddy Charles, Bud Powell and Miles Davis.
From 1960 to 1966 he was a member of the John Coltrane quartet (along with Jimmy Garrison on bass and McCoy Tyner on piano), a celebrated recording phase, appearing on such albums as A Love Supreme. Following his work with Coltrane, Jones led several small groups, some under the name The Elvin Jones Jazz Machine. His brothers Hank Jones and Thad Jones were also jazz musicians with whom he recorded.
By age 13, determined to be a drummer, Elvin was practicing eight to ten hours a day. He went nowhere without drum sticks in his pocket, and would beat out rhythms on any available surface. Early influences Elvin likes to cite range from Kenny Clarke, Max Roach and Jo Jones to parade drummers and the American Legion Drum Corps! In 1946 Elvin enlisted in the Army, and toured with a Special Services show called Operation Happiness – as a stagehand. Unofficially, however, he was honing his own musical skills and gaining confidence, playing at post social affairs.