It’s not how much equipment you have, it’s what you do with it. Ida Cox knew this, so did the great Sages, and Jo Jones exemplified it. Thanks to George Wein, the “Gretsch Greats” performed outdoors at the Newport Jazz Festival in New York on July 7, 1973. Jo Jones was at that time the Elder Statesman and the Famously Unpredictable Eccentric of the art form.
Legend has it that the young (Tony Williams) and the middle-aged (Max Roach) came out and did their best to show all the ways in which they could make sounds by using every part of their drum kits. (On the recording we have here, the drummers are Elvin Jones, Mel Lewis, and Freddie Waits.)
Sly and subversive, Papa Jo came out with only his hi-hat cymbals and a pair of sticks and “washed them all away.”
It may be difficult at this remove to imagine the whole spectacle: Jo was entirely theatrical, and it is a pity we don’t have a video recording of his grimaces, his eye-poppings, his grin turning on and off like a massive searchlight, his mutterings (those meant to be heard and the rest) but JAZZ LIVES readers do not lack imagination and will be able to improvise from what they hear.
This recording comes to us through “Wolfgang’s Vault,” which has already offered such treasures as the Benny Carter Swing Masters concert (1972), the Braff-Barnes Quartet, and a number of Newport rarities only imagined before this. Thanks also to the great friend of JAZZ LIVES and of living jazz everywhere, Ricky Riccardi, for pointing this out.
And, as he should, George Wein — who worked with Jo perhaps twenty years before — has the last word, admiringly.