Elvin Jones: The Drumset is a Musical Instrument

SKF NOTE: Rick Mattingly was Modern Drummer‘s Features Editor when I was at the magazine. He was/is also publications editor for the Percussive Arts Society, and drum/percussion editor for Hal Leonard Corporation. 

Rick did many good interviews for MD, including the cover story with Elvin Jones in December 1982. I remember Rick telling me Elvin had just one condition for this interview. He didn’t want to be asked about his time with John Coltrane. If memory serves, Rick told me Elvin’s was reacting to several writers who asked Elvin for an interview, when really, they were less interested in Elvin than in learning about John Coltrane.

Rick agreed to Elvin’s condidition. After their interview was in progress, and Elvin understood Rick is, among other things, a serious music journalist, the two men did talk about Elvin’s work with John Coltrane after all.

Elvin Jones

Elvin Jones

Rick Mattingly: There seems to be an emphasis with drummers to be more concerned with technique than musicality. Why are drummers so prone to this?

Elvin Jones: That is a problem. I think students get the notion that they have to prove something, and they have to show progress. They have to justify the time they have spent with some kin of a display: “Look. I’ve been practicing for two years and I can now play 2,000 paradiddles in five minutes.”

There are a thousand book out showing you how to stengthen this, and build that, and if you do this exercise you’ll be able to play these speed beats, and if you do this you’ll be able to sound like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa and everybody rolled into one! It’s kind of an exhibitionist attitude that prevails, and people get completely away from what drumming is really about.

Rick Mattingly

Rick Mattingly

The drums should be as musically supportive of a composition as the rest of the instruments. And this should be normal – this shouldn’t be something exceptional. When you hear a drummer playing musically, you shouldn’t say, “Oh my! Isn’t that unusual?” It should be normal.

It’s a musical instrument, playing with other musical instruments. It should all be one, big, happy, musical thing. But for some reason, it isn’t. For some reason, a lot of drummers are turned away from the natural course of things.


About Scott K Fish

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2 Responses to Elvin Jones: The Drumset is a Musical Instrument

  1. Pingback: Billy Higgins Didn’t Play Loud, But Had Such an Even Groove, Beat | Scott K Fish

  2. Pingback: Happy Birthday: My Pivotal Moments with Steve Gadd | Scott K Fish

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