Elvin Jones, arguably the most influential drummer of the modern jazz era, died today (May 18) in Englewood, N.J., reportedly of heart problems. He was 76.

Elvin Jones, arguably the most influential drummer of the modern jazz era, died today (May 18) in Englewood, N.J., reportedly of heart problems. He was 76.

Jones is best remembered as the polyrhythmic driving force in the John Coltrane Quartet, the most lauded jazz group of the 1960s. That unit revolutionized small-group jazz, freeing improvisatory players from confining rhythmic accompaniment and strict "chord changes" architecture of previous decades. It also brought a keening, spiritual aspect to jazz playing at a time of social unrest in the country.

Jones was the youngest of the three "Jones Boys" brothers from Detroit -- alongside pianist Hank and trumpeter/bandleader Thad, also popular jazz artists. They hit the New York scene with a splash in the mid-'50s.

Jones achieved success quickly, playing with established stars like Bud Powell, J.J. Johnson, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and others. He joined Coltrane's group in 1960 and stayed in the drum chair for six years. In the years that followed, he led and recorded with his own ensembles.

He played even as he grew ill, and appeared at Yoshi's jazz club in Oakland, Calif., earlier this month.

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