Born: October 7, 1911 | Died: 1985 Primary Instrument: Drums
Papa Jo Jones was the drum anchor in the famous All American Rhythm Section by way of his work with Count Basie's band. Jones redefined the concept of a drummer. He lightened up on the four-beats-to-the-bar standard of bass drum playing, was possibly the first to use the ride cymbal as the main timekeeping accessory, and did all with a graceful and light touch. In the history of jazz, Jo Jones was one of the most outstanding drummers, full of sensitivity and style, in addition to an absolutely perfect drumming technique, he really knew, as very few other jazz musicians do, the history of his music.
Jonathan Jones, was born 7 Oct. 1911,in Chicago. He studied music for years, also played piano, reeds and trumpet; then went to Kansas City in 1933, teamed up with Count Basie in 1934 and after a short off on period through 1936, rejoined and stayed until 1948 except while in the US Army. It was in his tenure with Basie on piano, Freddie Green on guitar, and Walter Page on bass, that Jo Jones made and established his enduring reputation.
He minimized the use of the bass drum and kept time on the top cymbal, freeing the drum kit to do more than simply mark time: Kenny Clarke, Max Roach and others developed this in the bop era of the '40s. He was not the only Swing Era drummer to practice the new, lighter concentration on the cymbal, and in later years constant beating of the cymbal by other drummers was often irritating (sometimes because badly recorded); but he did it with such finesse, humour and good taste (rarely taking solos) that he was the most influential of his generation: the rhythm section of the Basie band in its classic years swung like a light, well-oiled machine, and he lifted every session he played on.
He made record dates with Teddy Wilson, and Lionel Hampton, in the years '37 through ‘38, with the Benny Goodman sextet in '41, later appeared on albums with Buck Clayton, Sonny Stitt, Ruby Braff, Paul Quinichette, Coleman Hawkins, Jimmy Rushing, Illinois Jacquet, and Nat Pierce.
Jones toured Europe with Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson '57; and with Jazz at the Philharmonic that year. He led own trios in New York from '57 to ’60, and did some fine dates for Everest in that period as “Jo Jones Trio,” and “Vamp Till Ready,” and “Percussion and Brass.” He somehow also found time to teach and run a music shop.
His other recordings as leader include “Jo Jones Special,” (Vanguard '55) which was reissued as “The Essential Jo Jones.” He did a two-disc set “The Drums,” on Jazz Odyssey, on which he played, talked about his life and music. There was a sextet session with Harry Edison in '60 and a trio session with Ray Bryant on Evidence. In 1976 he released “The Main Man,” on Pablo. His last session “Our Man Papa Jo,” on Denon in '82, was with pianist Hank Jones, bassist Major Holley, and Jimmy Oliver on sax.
In 1985 Jones was the recipient of an American Jazz Masters fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Source: James Nadal