The task of following Elvin Jones as drummer with John Coltrane must have been one of the most daunting situations ever entered into by a jazz musician. In the mid-'60s, most jazz listeners would have assumed that Jones was the only drummer alive who possessed the requisite imagination, intensity, and powerful sense of swing necessary to drive Coltrane's passions. As it turned out, even Jones had limitations, and since Coltrane was all about transcending limitations, it seems proper that he would complement Jones' polymetric intractability with the addition of Rashied Ali's skittish, asymmetrical flexibility. The two drummers shared the bandstand briefly, before Jones, reportedly disgusted, left the band. It's not difficult to understand why the pairing proved ill-fated. Jones was an innovator, but he was bound to tradition -- specifically, the tradition of ground-beat swing. He was the last stage in the evolution of the drummer-as-timekeeper; he reiterated swing's primal importance, even as he extended the drummer's role in terms of interaction with the ensemble. For his part, Ali almost completely abandoned a steady pulse, adopting instead a rhythmically irregular, textural, hyperactive approach that propelled the music in a manner at odds with Jones' more literal style. The addition of Ali and the departure of Jones marked Coltrane's last and most extreme step away from the jazz tradition. The removal of a steady beat, and the multitude of implied meters set by Ali and bassist Jimmy Garrison freed Coltrane to an unprecedented extent. Indeed, it was with the addition of Ali to his group that Coltrane's free jazz period truly began.