Before we delve into Elvin Jones’ life and career from a musicologist’s standpoint, it is important (when available) to hear from these musicians themselves and those they worked with. Luckily in the case of prolific drummer Elvin Jones, film producer and director Ed Gray decided to make a documentary entitled Different Drummer: Elvin Jones in 1979 for PBS.
Though Jones is most well known for his work with innovators like Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and countless others, he also had quite an interesting youth both serving in the US Army and developing his musical chops in the Detroit music scene afterwards. The documentary in part looks at his earlier work that helped him develop a music sense in the church and in postwar Detroit. The documentary is only 30 minutes total, so we won’t tell anyone if you break away for a quick lunchtime viewing!