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Sun, 07.15.1923

“The Beat of Jazz,” Philly Jo Jones

Philly Jo Jones, 1961

Philly Joe Jones was born on this date in 1923. He was a Black musician.

Born in Philadelphia as Joseph Rudolph Jones, but was nicknamed "Philly" to avoid confusion with Jo Jones, the drummer from the Count Basie Orchestra, who became known as "Papa Jo Jones." After serving in the U.S. Army, he burst on the New York jazz scene in 1947 as the house drummer at Café Society with Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro, Charlie Parker, and Ben Webster. After collaborating with arranger Tadd Dameron in 1953, Jones joined Miles Davis' band in 1955, which included John Coltrane, Red Garland, and Paul Chambers. Julian "Cannonball" Adderley was added to the group the next year, and with Jones’ articulate, boxer-like cross rhythms they recorded several masterpieces including "Two-Bass Hit," "Milestones," and "Some Day My Prince Will Come."

"Play the Philly lick" was a command given by many band leaders when they wanted their drummers to re-create that special and explosive rhythmic signature that made Philly Joe Jones famous when he was the drummer in Miles Davis' classic 1950s quintet.  Innovative, but erratic due to personal problems, Jones left Davis in 1958, played with pianist Bill Evans, and recorded on the Riverside label, which released "Blues For Dracula," "Showcase," and "Drums Around The World: Big Band Sounds in 1958-'59." He also recorded for Atlantic and Uptown records.

Jones lived in London and Paris from 1967-82 and worked with saxophonist Archie Shepp, leading a jazz-fusion ensemble, Le Grand Prix.  In 1981, he founded Dameronia, a repertory big band devoted to the music of Tadd Dameron.  He had a great sense of humor and was very outgoing. As a musician, Jones was recognized for his indelible contributions to jazz well before his death on August 30, 1985.

Jazz People
by Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, New York
Copyright 1976
ISBN 0-8109-1152-3

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