Anecdotes – Tribute to Elvin Jones

I’ll really miss Elvin. I’ll miss his musicality and spontaneous ability to understand new music, but most of all, I’ll miss his kindness towards others and his willingness to become involved with new people and new musical situations.

We first met at Pookie’s Pub, a dive in lower Manhattan near Canal St., in the summer of 1967, about a month before John Coltrane died. I had heard Coltrane’s group at the Newport Jazz Festival and in New York City several times since 1964 and had met both Coltrane and McCoy Tyner, but never had a chance to meet Elvin. It just happens then that I was completing a new piece for brass quintet, tenor saxophone solo and rhythm section and was hoping that Elvin could play the improvised drum part, and I had Frank Foster already lined up to play the sax solo. Unfortunately, my only contact with Elvin had been hanging out at Pookie’s, so he wasn’t at all sure that I was serious about pursuing my musical goals. As you might imagine, he didn’t show up at the first rehearsal. Hmm, what to do. Well… I rehearsed the brass parts but was determined to have a full turnout at the second rehearsal, so I scheduled it with everybody, got Elvin’s address and actually went by his apartment to shake him out of the sack at 9:00AM! He must have been thinking to himself, “Doesn’t this kid know anything about Jazz musicians!” In fact, he liked what he heard and was convinced that I was serious (or at least gutsy) about my music, because he was never absent or even late to a rehearsal or recording session after that!

Elvin Jones and Fred Tompkins in 1968:

Elvin Jones and Fred Tompkins in 1968