Tag Archives: Papa Jo Jones

“YOU DIG IT, SON?”: PIERRE FAVRE REMEMBERS PAPA JO JONES

Jo Jones, the Sage, by Chip Stern

Jo Jones, the Sage, by Chip Stern

An excerpt from an interview with drummer Pierre Favre, published in CADENCE:

Cadence (Ken Weiss): What unforgettable encounter did you have with Papa Jo Jones?

Favre:  I’ll never forget that.  I had a drum clinic at the American Hotel in New York and many drummers were there and Papa Jo Jones was there and I was playing that free business.  Everyone later went to the buffet, of course, and Jo Jones came over and said to me, “Son, come here.”  He sat at my drum set with two brushes and he was just stretching the drums, not hitting, just smiling.  It was like some fresh air came into the room, you know?  This is all he did for a few seconds, just stretching the instrument, and then he said, “You dig it, son?  OK, let’s go have a drink.”  It was a short lesson but it was a lesson for life in a few minutes.

Cadence:  So that encounter changed how you played?

Favre:  No, it was confirming what I was looking for, otherwise it would not have worked.  If somebody puts his finger exactly on what you are looking for, boom, then you have it.  He was a wise man, the drums were his world.  I know he was not always gentle with young drummers, he was very hard on them if he didn’t feel they were really concerned about it so his interest in me was a real compliment.

(CADENCE, Annual Edition 2012, 174-5).

A lesson for sure!

And now a word from me about CADENCE — that honest long-running magazine of Creative Improvised Music, whose reach goes from ragtime to the most extravagantly independent expressions imaginable.  I used to be a Cadence freeloader — leaning against the browser in Tower Records, reading the new issues for free.

Then I came to write for the magazine (I still do) and I admire its continued intelligent independence.  It was the first jazz magazine I’d ever written for where candor was prized, so that when I timidly sent in a negative review of a reissue by a very famous player, I was delighted to find that the then Editor, Bob Rusch, applauded my undiplomatic truth-telling.  And it continues on its honest ways.  Learn more about it here.

May your happiness increase.

THE WORD FOR THAT IS “STYLE”: JO JONES and HIS MAGIC HI-HAT, July 7, 1973

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.

http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/gretsch-greats/concerts/central-park-july-07-1973.html

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.

JO JONES CENTENNIAL FESTIVAL (Oct. 2 -8, 2011) on WKCR-FM

Jo Jones, Coleman Hawkins, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Sir Charles Thompson, Jimmy Woode — London, 1964: CARAVAN

News from a great jazz radio station — WKCR-FM, emanating from Columbia University in New York City:

Tune in to for the Jo Jones Centennial from October 2nd at 2:00 p.m. to October 8th at 12:00 noon. Throughout the day, you’ll be able to hear presentations of the work of Papa Jo Jones by theme, with each show focusing on particular instrumentations, groupings, or musical qualities. Even if you’re an extreme Basie-ite, or know Jones better than most, you’re likely to hear something fresh this week: live performances and airchecks, music from the West End, recordings from Jones’ film appearances, and other stellar rarities. 

Jonathan “Jo” Jones (b. 10/7/11), nicknamed “Papa” to avoid confusion with jazz drummer Philly Joe Jones, stands as one of the most accomplished, influential, and innovative practitioners of his art in the history of jazz. Born in Chicago and raised in Alabama, Jones eventually made his way to Kansas City, Missouri, where he first recorded with Hunter’s Serenaders in 1931. His next recording, the Smith-Jones Inc. session in 1936, began his epochal work with William “Count” Basie, as well as a relationship with Lester “Pres” Young that would last into the ’50s. By the time Basie began recording under his own leadership, Jones was a part of a rhythm section that would redefine jazz and help usher in the pinnacle of the Swing Era. Jones played with Basie nearly continuously until 1944, when he was drafted for two years just at the end of the war. During this pre-war era he also worked with Teddy Wilson in the band for many of Billie Holiday’s greatest recordings. After his return, Jones continued to influence his peers, using his sound to balance Illinois Jacquet’s ferocious swing, Sonny Stitt’s ecstatic lines, and the melodies of singers like Jimmy Rushing and Joe Turner. Jones appeared as part of Jazz at the Philharmonic and at Newport as the guest of Basie and the Oscar Peterson Trio in ’57 and ’58, respectively. Eventually, he began recording as a leader with musicians like Ray and Tommy Bryant and old friends like Roy Eldridge. After his time with Basie, the great breadth of his work ensured that his sound persisted through the changes of bebop and beyond. Jones’ method of supporting swing, his talent for adding depth to the human voice, and his consistently impressive conception and execution live on. His sound provided the necessary backbone upon which so much great music was built. Join us in celebrating what would have been his 100th birthday, October 7th, 2011, with nearly a week of his music.

I spent many happy hours listening to and tape-recording the astonishing jazz festivals that WKCR-FM (89.9) had in years past . . . sometimes setting my alarm during the night to wake up at three-hour intervals to turn the tape reel over and go back to sleep, sometimes scheduling my daily activities around what would be broadcast that day.  Because of Phil Schaap, one of the station’s most diligent and enduring members, Jo Jones and WKCR have been linked for many years, with Jo speaking on-air to honor other jazz greats.  The station also broadcast live jazz from the West End Cafe (now no longer a music mecca) with Jo leading small groups that included Harold Ashby, Don Coates, John Ore, Sammy Price, Taft Jordan, Paul Quinichette, and others — even a teenaged Stanley Jordan.  Jo Jones deserves a week-long tribute of this depth and scope, and I’m only sorry that it had to wait for his centennial — after his death.  Listeners outside of the New York metropolitan area should visit WKCR’s online site — http://www.wkcr.org — where (through RealPlayer — the installation takes about six or seven minutes) the broadcasts can be heard without a radio, streaming.  I disposed of my reel-to-reel recorder years ago, but the good news is that RealPlayer entices me: click on a little red button, bottom left, and record the signal “to my library.”  I wonder how many external hard drives the centennial would fill up?  At least I could now get an unbroken night’s sleep.

BIRD, JO JONES, AND THAT CYMBAL

Here, once again, is the story of a teenaged Charlie Parker, brilliant but incomplete, getting humiliated in public by drummer Jo Jones:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jun/17/charlie-parker-cymbal-thrown

The tale is always told as a defining moment in the history of jazz: a youth on his own self-defined quest, being mocked and deflated by one of the aging masters — someone whom he ultimately surpasses.  It is thus a narrative of payback, of the underdog becoming the sun-god.

But every time I read it, especially since it is substantiated by Ross Russell, a notable fictionalizer, I wonder if it ever happened.  Or if it happened this way.  I met and spoke with and heard Papa Jo in his later years, and I have no trouble imagining him as a man intolerant of mediocrity, a man who spoke his mind, a man who would even be contemptuous of what he considered incompetence.

But drummers know and value and love their equipment.  They spend hours selecting the right cymbals, the right sticks.  Cymbals may be metal but they break, they bend, they become unplayable.

So I propose that what we have here is myth, inflating and uncontrolled.  Perhaps Jo made loud gonging sounds on his cymbal; perhaps his derision was palpable.  But I can’t see him throwing a cymbal, the cymbal sailing through the air, landing at the poor humiliated altoist’s feet.  You can, if you like.

UPDATE as of March 2017: all of the above might well be emotionally correct, but I must stand corrected.  I’ve learned from several sources including the very revered and reliable Dan Morgenstern that the incident of Jo, Bird, and the cymbal did happen, as witnessed by string bassist Gene Ramey.  Why am I letting this post stand, then?  Call it perversity, or call it this: anyone has the right to be wrong, and let wrongness stand as an expression of feeling, unaffected by those annoying facts.

“MUSIC FOR DRUMMERS”: EXTRAORDINARY LARGESSE

Although I’ve always understood that part of the urge to collect has in it the urge to keep something for oneself — “Mine!  Mine!  Not yours!” screams the toddler self — I am delighted beyond words when someone in the jazz collecting world says, “Here!  Listen to this!  Let everyone listen to this!”  The Italian jazz scholar Enrico Borsetti is one of these heroic figures.  And now I’ve met another person, in cyberspace to be sure, who has showered riches upon us.  His name is Mike Tarani.   

I found the blog MUSIC FOR DRUMMERS through a Google Alert for “Jo Jones.”  I have now seen a great deal of information about Susie Jo Jones, and Jolanda Jo Jones, and Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones.  I’m sure they are all beyond compare, but none of them played drums in the Basie rhythm section, none of them fired rimshots and accents behind Tommy Ladnier at Carnegie Hall.  You understand.

MUSIC FOR DRUMMERS has devoted an astounding post to Jonathan David Samuel Jones (and kindly mentions my piece on Jo in this blog) — which includes YouTube videos.  AND it includes mp3 versions of Jo’s famous two-record set, THE DRUMS.

But wait!  There’s more!  MFD also offers — free and gleefully — the tape of an oral history interview of Jo done by Milt Hinton, circa 1973.  Hearing those voices nearly brought me to tears.   

My goodness!

And, as Mae West never said, “Goodness has everything to do with it.”  Blessings on Mike Tarrani for his generosities.

See for yourself at http://drumz4sale.blogspot.com/2010/02/papa-jo-jones.html

EDDIE LOCKE (1930-2009)

The great players of a certain generation are leaving us in body, although what remains in sound and memory will outlive us all.  I remember Eddie Locke as one of the anchors of Roy Eldridge’s band at Jimmy Ryan’s, at various concerts and gigs across New York City — cheerful, energetic, musically attuned, a disciple of the Master, Papa Jo Jones.  And what better tribute could he have had then to be chosen by Coleman Hawkins for the rhythm section?  

Like Ruby Braff, Eddie should — if art is measured by the calendar — have been a vigorous bopper, playing alongside Clifford Brown rather than Willie the Lion Smith.  But he followed that four-beat rhythm he had heard in the Forties.  It sustained him and he sustained every group he played with.   

Eddie will be missed!  But photographer John Herr caught a beaming Eddie in June 2008: a treasure.

Photograph by John Herr, June 2008