Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jazz drummer Philly Joe Jones was born on July 15,1923 with the name Joseph Rudolph Jones in the city of Philadelphia. His mother, a piano teacher taught him the basics in music. In his formative years he also studied the drums with drummers the likes of Cozy Cole and Charles Wilcoxon, receiving valuable advise from Art Blakey and a then younger Max Roach. He established himself as “Philly Joe” Jones, from the name of the city of his birth, to distinguish himself from the mainstay Count Basie’s drummer, Jo Jones.
But just as Jo Jones established the rhythm section standard in the 30’s and 40’s, Philly Joe would do the same in the 50’s.
He began playing with the rhythm and blues bands in the 40’s, establishing himself on the New York jazz scene. The first group that he recorded with was co-led by Johnny Griffin and Joe Morris, along with Matthew Gee on trombone and Elmo Hope on piano and Percy Heath. For a time they played standard Monk and pieces of Bud Powell, but reverted back to playing the blues for the sake of money. Philly, unhappy with the music, split with the group and joined the already established Ben Webster, Lee Konitz, Zoot Sims, Tony Scott, and Tadd Dameron. He worked in Philadelphia as the local drummer for stars such as Dexter Gordon and Fats Navarro. He was in the army for a short time and len left in 1945 taking a job up as a streetcar driver. He was supposedly fired from the job because he would stop the steetcar with people in it and go in to play a set at the jazz clubs on the way, sometimes forgetting about the people in the car.
Jones was on many Blue Note recordings and was virtually house drummer for the Blue Note, Riverside, and Prestige record labels. His style has been described as “too loud” or “like a machine gunner.” However one must listen carefully to appreciate his precision and energy. One excellent example of Jones’ playing can be heard of Coltrane’s album, Blue Train. Jones’ first album was in 1958, an LP for the Riverside record label. On his album were players that would become well known in the business: Nat Adderley, Julian Priester, Johnny Griffin and Tommy Flanagan. In his prime, Jones won great recognition. In Downbeat magazine polls he won the new star category on drums in 1957 and the main drum category in 1962. He was second place in 1961, second to Max Roach.
In 1962 there was a sharp decline in Jones’ career. He was ignored and almost forgotten. One reason was a drummer named Elvin Jones with John Coltrane’s quartet, who stole some of the limelight. Perhaps this the reason that Jones moved to England in 1968. There he made his mark as a teacher, tremendously improving the local talent. He eventually returned to the New York and west coast jazz scene, however lost from the forefront of it all. He did work regularly in his home town of Philadelphia. In 1977 he cut an LP for the Sonet label: Mean What You Say, an good example of latter-day bebop.
Jones, in the 80’s, formed Dameronia, a group dedicated to playing original recordings of Tadd Dameron’s music. This resulted in two Uptown label LPs in 82 and 84 which were well received by critics. However on August 30th, 1985, his electrifying solos would be no more as he passed away of a heart attack in his home in “Philly.”
Click to watch him letting it all hang out!
Reference - AAJ

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