100 Greatest Drummers of All Time

From rock thunder machines to punk powerhouses, we count down the kings and queens of slam

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Elvin Jones
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23. Elvin Jones

Born in 1927 to a musical family in Pontiac, Michigan, Elvin Jones was among a handful of players who changed the definition of how a drummer is meant to function in his seismic five-year stint with the John Coltrane Quartet. An impeccable timekeeper with tremendous delicacy, Jones is best remembered for pushing Coltrane into the stratosphere with his elemental power, dispersing and displacing the beat among all four limbs. "There is nothing new about timekeeping, it's just that some people can keep better time than others," Jones told Down Beat in 1977. "Some people are more sensitive to rhythmic pulses, and the more sensitive you are, the more you can utilize the subtleties of timekeeping." The early hard-rock drummers that he influenced – Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, John Bonham – would surely agree.

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