Thursday, January 23, 2020

Elvin Jones - The Wise One

A big THANK YOU to Adam Nussbaum who recently shared and forwarded along these inspiring Elvin Jones quotes. We're not exactly sure who compiled all of these gems, but there is definitely lots of wisdom to be found here.

As per usual, when the Masters speak, we listen...

          ELVIN JONES

  • This way of playing adds more responsibility to the drummer. One of the responsibilities involves being flexible enough to support the soloist within the full range of support. You aren't just following the soloist; you become a partner. When approached properly, this way of playing offers greater opportunities and broadens the musical scope of the player. And it has to be musical; it can't be an ego trip. I knew my style sounded complicated, but it wasn't really. It wasn't status quo, but it wasn't all THAT different. (’82 Modern Drummer interview)
  • It's the honesty you apply to your playing that makes music enjoyable. The style of the music has little to do with it. It's only honesty makes it beautiful. (Melody Maker Dec. 19,‘72 p16)
  • Thad told me this many years ago and it got to me when he said it. He probably doesn't even remember saying it to me. He just said "Whenever you play, imagine that it's the very last chance or opportunity you'll ever have." So just that thought is enough incentive to at least not be wishy-washy or do something insignificant. At least it will bring out whatever honesty is in you to be applied to your instrument at that time.  hat's the only philosophy I know - just to do the very best you can at all times. (Down Beat Oct. 2, ‘69 p12)
  • When I go to a museum the things there are selected from thousands of sculptures and paintings worthy of public attention, and this is what should occur when you turn on the radio to listen to a music program. Who cares what makes the most money? The fact is this should be available so the proper attention can be paid to it. So it is a part of everybody's life. (Downbeat Mar. 27, ‘75 p25)
  • That feeling is always there. It's just a feeling - if you want to call it jazz you can call it jazz.  Anything you want to call it, but it's a spirit…cohesion…joint effort…all simultaneous emotion. (Downbeat Oct. 2, ‘69 p13)
  • There's no doubt about the fact that black musicians have been exploited economically, just as the whole social structure in the United States has been geared to play down the economic development of the black man. I mean this is understood. But still, as I say, it had no effect at all on the creativity of jazz. The music was created in spite of that, by the black and white together.  So anybody who tries to pretend otherwise has a very weak argument. Jazz is not the prerogative of the Negro race. It's the prerogative of the human race. (Crescendo International  Jan. ‘73  p27)
  • I like to be moved. I like to feel things. I like to feel music because that is the way I am. I want to enjoy myself. (Downbeat,‘73)
  • I've always liked the sound of the drums; its rhythm and those sounds make me feel good and I just like to do it because I like to hear it.  I like to hear it done well; that's why I wanted to be a drummer.  You have to like to, and you have to want to and you have to love it.  (John Coltrane and the Jazz Revolution of the 1960's, Frank Kofsky)
  • It isn't what it is; it's what you do, how you do it. That's a challenge to a musician if you put them in that particular context and say, "All right, here's the music, play this." And so you go ahead and play it and make it just as interesting and full and gracious and beautiful as if you were playing with a symphony orchestra. There isn't any difference. (Downbeat, Nov. ’97)
  • I don't feel any reluctance to tell people that I'm a jazz musician: I am. Also I don't ever hesitate to add musician after the word jazz. When I use the word jazz, I always say jazz music, because I think it is a complete art form. It's unfortunate that this word was chosen to express it, but nevertheless that's what it is. It's a pure art form developed here in this country by black artists and which is continuing to be developed by everybody that has any musical aspirations at all or who has even thought about becoming a musician, whatever color they are. I think the fact that it's pure transcends all colors and races. (Notes And Tones, Art Taylor)
  • I was a young man, my parents and their peers had ways of encouraging the young people, and there was an expression they would use: "Tell your story." What the people meant was, "Do it your way and make it for all of us." This is the way I believe a song is supposed to be rendered, whether it is a drum song or a saxophone song or any other. The composition should be expressed in a form that can be recognized as a story. If that's what people are hearing, then that means I'm doing it. (Modern Drummer Aug.‘79 p16)
  • Some parts of Latin music are very rigid, as are some aspects of African rhythms. The flexibility comes from the number of people that are playing the rhythm. It is not always synchronized, so that makes it more fluid. When I applied it, I opted for the fluidity rather than the static portion of the rhythms. The focus of Latin music is for people to dance. That's where the fluidity is apparent, and the dance enhances the music, which, in turn, enhances the dance. (Modern Drummer May ‘92 p53)
  • You always hope that the listener will hear what you are doing. If they hear what you are doing, then they also hear what you feel. If these two things exist...the insight that occurs when one human being meets another would be realized, and they would come back from the experience more enlightened, a better person, perhaps, or have more tolerance to whatever goes on and exists around them. I don't think that you can force anything on the listener. (Downbeat, Nov.’97)
  • When you are committed, then the only thing that is important is that commitment. And your knowledge and your experiences, whether they be great of small, how they can best apply that to that particular present. I never thought about how important it may have been, all I knew was that I was there. And I told myself, you are the one that has to do it. This is hindsight; we've got a lot of knowledge now. But all you know now is that you are with this group, you hear this music and you have to respond, because you are the one behind the drumset. That is where the commitment comes in. That is where you have to be absolutely honest with yourself, with what you are hearing, with what you are doing. That is what it all boils down to. That is the kind of commitment that I suppose after a few years has some significance. (Downbeat, Nov. 1997)
  • My drums are my life. Sometimes what happens to you during the day affects your ability and shows up in your work. But once you get to your set, you can obliterate all the troubles, which seem to fall off your shoulders.  f you aren't happy before, you are when you play. Playing is a matter of spontaneity and thought, of constant control. Take a solo. When I start, I keep the structure and melody and content of the tune in my mind and work up abstractions or obbligatos on it. I count the choruses as I go along, and sometimes I'm able to decide in advance what the pattern of a whole chorus will be, but more often five or six patterns will flash simultaneously across my mind, which gives me a choice, especially if get hung up, and I've had some granddaddies of hang-ups. If you don't panic, you can switch to another pattern. I can see forms and shapes in my mind when I solo, just as a painter can see forms and shapes when he starts a painting. And I can see different colors.  My cymbals will be one color and my snare another color and my tom toms each a different color.  I mix these colors up, making constant movement. Drums suggest movement, a conscious, constant shifting of sounds and levels of sound. My drumming can shade from a whisper to a thunder. I'm not conscious of the length of my solos, which I've been told have run up to half an hour. When you develop a certain pattern, you stay with it until it's finished.  It's just like you start out in the evening to walk to Central Park and back. Well, there are a lot of directions you can take - one set of streets going up, then in a certain entrance and out another entrance and back on a different set of streets.  You come back and maybe take a hot bath and have some dinner and read and go to bed. You haven't been somewhere to lose yourself, but to go and come back and finish your walk.  (American Musicians, Whitney Balliett)
  • To me, it has never been about a lot of money. It has always been, what are you going to do, what are you playing, what is the music, how does it sound, how does it make me feel, that kind of thing. That is my primary concern. (Downbeat, Nov.‘97)
  • Playing is not something I do at night. It's my function in life. Music is a way of life, it's everything. I play drums and that's what I believe I was born to do. (Downbeat Oct. 2,‘69 p 12)

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