The first album to recommend is Jo Jones The Main Man.
this is not only an excellent album for drummers to study, but historical in its own right. The historical aspect is this album reunites four key alumni of the 1937 Basie line-up, considered by many to be the greatest incarnation of that band: Papa Jo Jones on drums, Freddie Green on guitar, Vic Dickenson on trombone, and Harry Sweets Edison on trumpet.
Other members of this session, which took place on 29 and 30 November 1976 in RCA's New York Studios are Roy Eldridge also on trumpet, Eddie Lockjaw Davis on tenor sax, Tommy Flanagan on piano and Sam Jones on bass. The line-up is truly all-star.
As for the value to drummers, and to be inclusive, the other musicians: the pulse set up by the rhythm section is driving. For me, though, it's the use of dynamics by each member of the entire ensemble that is instructive and a pleasure to hear.
Unfortunately, I do not have any clips available to share, but at such time that I make then I will update this section of this post.
Track one sets the pace with Tommy Flanagan's beautiful piano support and Papa Jo's brushwork on the first track are exquisite. The muted trumpets and how Sam Jones locks in on bass all combine to give Papa Jo a platform to exhibit his tasteful playing.
If you are a drummer and play with brushes the next track, I Want to Be Happy, merits careful and repeated listening. The next track, Ad Lib, also contains solid brushwork, but is more subtle.
One of my favorite tracks is Dark Eyes because the way Papa Jo handles it is vastly different from Gene Krupa's approach(and this was one of Krupa's signature songs.) While the song lacks that Eastern European flavor of Krupa's renditions, the trumpets lift it up and Papa Jo's drumming is one of the reasons I love this particular track. Indeed, the entire ensemble is on fire here.
Papa Jo cuts loose on the final two tracks, Metrical Portions and Ol' Man River, taking the band on a ride with him. As hard driving as he is on these tracks he also manages to remain tasteful. Louis Bellson once claimed that Papa Jo's style was akin to a fan dancer, and these tracks amply underscore that. As driving as he is, he remains airy and artful.
I consider Smiles (1969-1975) (The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions) to be important for a few reasons, foremost of which is it is a record of Papa Jo's later years.
Papa Jo performed regularly in Europe and especially in France during the late 1960s through a large part of the 1970s. This album captures some of those performances as recorded by Disques Black & Blue (hence, The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions.) Instead of providing specific clips from the album, which are difficult to track down, I am going to provide what I consider to be the cream of the crop from Papa Jo's Paris performances during this era with the same musicians that are in the album. I'll kick off with this one:
The first ten tracks were released as Jo Jones - Caravan in 1974 by Disques Black & Blue, and dominate the album. Those tracks were recorded on 28 February 1974 at Barclay Studios in Paris, except Slide Jimmy Slide, which was recorded on 26 February in the studio, and Caravan was recorded live in Paris on January 13th 1974.
Personnel on the first ten tracks are: Papa Jo Jones on drums, Major Holley on bass (except for Caravan), Gerry Wiggins on piano on all tracks except for Slide Jimmy Slide, which has Milt Buckner on piano, and Caravan, which has Milt Buckner on organ. Illinois Jacquet is on tenor saxophone on Caravan.
The remaining four tracks, taken from other Paris performances between 1969 and 1975, have basically Papa Jo Jones on drums and Milt Buckner on organ.
To my ears the music is excellent and Papa Jo's drumming in superb form making this album is one to study (along with Papa Jo's other work).
This was one the the three albums Papa Jo recorded for Everest (this one in New York City in 1960). And there is a mystery associated with it. Nowhere in Nat Hentoff's original liner notes is there any credit for the vibes played on Love Nest and Tin Top Alley Blues. The album does claim percussion instead of drums, so I am guessing that Papa Jo played them. The larger mystery is on Little Honey, which features vibes and brushes. Here is a clip:
What I love about this album and why I believe it's a wonderful tool for studying is how the tracks represent a wide range of tempos. Moreover, the super fast tempo on H.O.T. and how it was maintained primarily with the hi-hat was instructive. And the amazing brushwork on Walls Fall was another highlight.
Last, but certainly not least is Jazz Magic '56. Teddy and Papa Jo (and Billie Holiday, Basie and Lester Young) formed an eternal braid of sorts and always wound up recording together during their respective careers. I could cite a long list of albums, but the scope of this post is confined to albums on which Papa Jo was leader or co-leader.
This is actually the Teddy Wilson/Papa Jo Jones compilation titled Complete Recordings without the final eight bonus tracks featuring Benny Carter on alto saxophone.
Note that not all of these tracks are strictly from 1956 - some are from 1955 (although they may have been first released in 1956.)
Here are the albums from this this one is derived: For Quiet Lovers recorded in January 1955 with Teddy on piano, Papa Jo on drums and Milt Hinton on bass. Here is the first track from that album (interesting song title considering the album title!) Note Papa Jo's brushwork:
I Got Rhythm
circa March 1956 with Gene Ramey on bass. Here is a clip of Teddy playing the great Chick Webb's theme song (composed by Edgar Sampson.)Listen to Papa Jo's drumming. Subtle and forceful at the same time:
While there are other compilations of Teddy, this particular album has Teddy paired with Papa Jo Jones. They both have a mutual history that goes back to Billie Holiday's first recordings in the mid-1930s on which Teddy was the band leader.
As a music lover, and especially one who places Teddy on a pedestal, getting lost in the silvery tone of his piano on these tracks is a rare treat in life. The taste with which both complement each others playing is - in my opinion - incomparable.
My next topic will be Charles Mingus. I will warn in advance: I'm fanatical. On the plus side, there will be many small posts over a period of time instead of a tsunami of information and clips. Until then ...