Elvin Ray Jones, a renowned jazz drummer and member of John Coltrane’s quartet who also played alongside Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, died Tuesday. He was 76.
Jones died of heart failure in an Englewood, N.J., hospital, said his wife of 38 years, Keiko Jones.
“He’s happy. No more suffering,” said Keiko Jones. “He’s been fighting for so long.”
Jones, called by Life magazine “the world’s greatest rhythmic drummer,” was born in Pontiac, Mich., one of ten children. He had two musician brothers: Hank, a jazz pianist, and Thad, a trumpet and flugelhorn player.
Jones entered the Detroit jazz scene in the late 1940s after touring as a stagehand with the Army Special Services show Operation Happiness.
After a brief gig at the Detroit club Grand River Street, he went to work at another club, backing up such jazz greats as Parker, Davis and Wardell Grey.
Jones came to New York in 1955 for an unsuccessful audition for the Benny Goodman band but stayed in the city, joining Charlie Mingus’ band and making a record called “J is Jazz.” In 1960, he became a member of John Coltrane’s quartet.
Jones, with his rhythmic, innovative style, became one of jazz’s most famous drummers under Coltrane. He can be heard on Coltrane’s “A love Supreme” and “Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard.”
After leaving the Coltrane quartet, Jones briefly played with Duke Ellington and formed the Elvin Jones’ Jazz Machine. He put out several solo albums and continued to tour, including last month in Oakland, Calif., Keiko Jones said.
Besides his wife, Jones is survived by a son and a daughter.