Two Minutes with Elvin

Elvin JonesTo me sometimes, certain people seem bigger than life. There is something special that separates them from the rest of the pack. I’d bet that anyone who’s met or known Elvin Jones would say that about him.  

I’m estimating it was around 1995, Jumpstreet was working a wedding at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, MA. Inside the Charles is a great jazz club called The Reggata Bar. Members of Jumpstreet at the time included Peter Calo on guitar and a wonderful saxophone player and friend from Boston, Myanna.

Everyone was being stoic but my excitement was visibly boiling over because Elvin Jones was playing in the Reggata Bar! I was chomping at the bit to get a chance to see Elvin live.  Knowing the staff at the Charles, we were allowed to sneak in and catch some of Elvin’s show. I had never seen him play and it was so cool to hear and see those signature licks and a-bombs come to life (and that was with brushes). 

The band finished their first show and Ravi Coltrane turned to us and said, “Hey, Myanna.” I never asked Myanna how she knew Ravi. They struck up a conversation.

Meanwhile,  I had stepped out into the elevator area where I knew Elvin would be heading. Elvin came strolling over and it was just he and I. A white towel wrapped around his neck and the steam coming off his body added to his giant aura. I mean, the guy had a presence about him. 

I knew deep down that he was just a mortal like me, but there was something, an energy, almost like an invisible light around him. I didn’t want to bug him with something so trivial,  but I knew I would never get a chance like that again to get a keepsake of that moment.  

He was a big guy and I stood there like a little boy looking up at him. He was smiling at me. I think he sensed that I was a little uncomfortable. It was a welcoming smile. He was so unpretentious.     

“Elvin, would you sign this for me?” I held out one of my business cards and a pen. He took it from me, kept smiling and asked me my name. “Mike” I told him. 

Still with the big grin he wrote, “To Mike, Elvin Jones.” What a treasure. 

This coming Sunday (May 18th) will mark the fourth year since Elvin left us. He had a long life and his contribution to jazz is unmeasurable.    

Years later, I remember driving to Dave Mattacks’ house for a lesson. During the 26-mile drive I was listening to something Coltrane. I think it may have been “A Love Supreme.” When I arrived at Dave’s I said — looking for some insight — “I dunno man,  I’ve been listening to Elvin on the way down here and I can’t even visualize what’s going on…..I have no idea what the heck he’s doing.” Dave just laughed and said, “Mike, no one does.”

About Mike Ruggelo

Mike co-founded Jumpstreet with legendary guitarist Peter Calo in 1988. Michael Ruggelo M.Ed, Music Resume
Drums, percussion, acoustic guitar, lead vocals
Former Assistant Director of Amesbury High School Band
Haverhill High School Summer Band Camp A.D.
Private Instruction Since 1979
Pro Mark Corporation Award for Outstanding Percussion Education
Metropolitan Drum Company Endorser
Mike co-founded the Jumpstreet Band with in demand NY session great Peter Calo in 1986. In addition to attending the Berklee College of Music private studies program in Boston, Mike has studied with legendary drummers Alan Dawson, Bob Moses, and Dave Mattacks. As a freelance artist and band member, he has performed and or recorded with locally and nationally known artists over the years including Chubby Checker, Tony Funches of theThe Platters, The Coasters, The Marvelettes, The Chiffons, The Heavy Metal Horns (Extreme’s horn section), Peter Calo, the Drifters, Marty Walsh (Supertramp, John Fogerty, Leann Rimes) , John Troy and John Curtis (Pousette-Dart Band) Brad Delp and Fran Sheehan (Boston). Mike has also appeared with Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Fifth Dimension and Boston Music Awards winner Shirley Lewis.
Published (Tater Music) songwriter
If My Heart Was Yours by Peter Calo and Mike Ruggelo featured in the NY City Play “Chris and Adelmo” Also recorded by members of Carley Simon’s band including Gerry Marrotta, drummer for Peter Gabriel

Other notable artists Mike has had the pleasure of appearing with:
Paul Ahlstrand, Ed Antonelli, Rich Appleman, Tim Archibald, Scott Arruda, Steve Baker, Marty Balou, Bruce Bartlett, Lennie Bradford, Bruce Beers, Peter Black, Dave Brown, Brian Burrill, Baron Brown, Chris Stovall Brown, John Curtis, Brad Delp, John, Disoni, Derek Dyer, Henley Douglas, Peter Eldridge, Johnny Secret Fortier, Caprice Fox, Ed Friedland, Tony Gallo, Rich Gardzina, Teese Gohl, Dino Govoni, Raleigh Green, Joe Holaday, Steve Hunt, Roger Kimball, Joey Laite, Lee Leland, Shirly Lewis, Alizon Lissance, Sandy Martin, Mike Metheny, Circe Miller, Myanna Pontopidan, Walter Platt, Johnny Ray, Jacque Raymond, Mark Retallack, Kelly Riley, Marty Rowan, Garrett Savluk, Frannie Sheahan, Oscar Stagnaro, Didi Stewart, Binny Stone, Stan Strickland, Charlie Thomas, John Troy, Michael Troy,John Vanderpoole, Henry Welch, Dave Wilczewski, Frank Wilkinsn (978) 290-0712