Friday, February 26, 2010

Papa Jo Jones

Papa Jo Jones is among my top three favorite drummers as well as [in my opinion] one of the top three greatest drummers ever born. Just to clarify, Buddy Rich is not in that short list.

First, since I first wrote this page a new book about Papa Jo Jones has been published and I highly recommend it: Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones. In addition to the book, there are plenty of pages dedicated to this extraordinary man, but I have culled a few that I find particularly interesting.

First is an article by Chip Stern titled, Wilson Driver: Reflections Of An Urban Griot. Mr. Driver was Jo Jones' early mentor, but has [unfortunately] faded into obscurity. Steve Cerra has an excellent page devoted to Papa Jo on his blog Indeed, Steve's blog, Jazz Profiles, is one of the best jazz drummer blogs on the web! Another excellent jazz-oriented blog with a well written personal account of Jo Jones is a the brainchild of Michael Steinman whose Smiling Jo Jones fills in more anecdotal information. However, Jo Jones is best told by Jo Jones. Danny Britt's brief article on THE DRUMS by Jo Jones, an old LP recording that is out of print, is a great synopsis. Another excellent review of this album is in the October 1976 issue of Gramophone (page 148). Here is the album in its entirety. Note that the sound quality is poor and horribly so if you are listening through high-end speakers or headphones. It will give you an idea about what is on the album, which can be purchased in much higher quality from Amazon. Think of the files here as a preview under the aegis of Fair Use. To truly enjoy this work purchase the copy I referenced, which will provide superior sound quality.


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Taking it ever further, there is a long interview circa 1973 in which the late, great bassist Milt Hinton interviews Papa Jo. This interview wanders and is obviously rough around the edges, but is priceless as an oral history. You will hear Manzie Campbell mentioned on both pieces - an unknown who Papa Jo considered to be the world's greatest drummer. The scant information on Mr. Campbell is focused on Silas Green's shows, and all of the information points to Manzie as a comic and stage actor in the shows. One must ponder the injustice of history when one of the greatest drummers cites someone even greater and the man is forgotten. Here is the oral history conducted by Milt Hinton who keeps Papa Jo moving forward in his recollections:
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A few albums that I recommend are:
Some clips:


More videos of Papa Jo are on Jon McCaslin's Four On The Floor blog entry titled, Jo Jones: Born to Swing.

UPDATE (27 Feb 2010) Thank you Michael Steinman for a flattering article about this post!

1 comment:

"Jazz Lives" @ WordPress.com said...

In the name of Jonathan David Samuel Jones, I thank you -- and I will post about this so that my readers can hear the interview Milt did with Jo. I had the opportunity to see them play together a few times, and it was a combination of great jazz and superb playfulness -- no one's played like that yet!

THANK YOU! Michael Steinman
http://www.jazzlives.wordpress.com