Jazz Birthday: Jo Jones (1911)

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In his earlier years, drummer Jo Jones worked in the Count Basie Orchestra. Some records bill him, Basie, rhythm guitarist Freddie Green and bassist Walter Page as the All-American Rhythm Section. Between 1936 and 1948, they contributed mightily to the production of classic after classic by this Basie band by producing a light, relaxed, pulsing, driving, and very steady beat at well-chosen tempos. Jones was a top-tier creative drummer. He considered himself an entertainer and in show business. Here’s what Buddy Rich said “One thing for sure. Anyone who plays drums or supposedly appreciates drumming should experience Jo Jones.” Here’s Jones in a duet playing Caravan.

Drummer Cliff Leeman lauds the creativity of Jones:

“Jo Jones had a great influence on every drummer who heard him, particularly in those early years. He played the high-hat with so much finesse. He did so much on it that he turned it into an independent instrument. So many techniques and touches for the hat are his creations. Jo was the first person I ever heard keep time on a closed high-hat while developing counterpoint-in-rhythm with his left hand on the high-hat stand. So many things: the feeling of variation he brought to high-hat playing-how he changed the accents and the feel of the dotted eighth and sixteenth rhythm without interrupting the flow. His little kick beats on the bass drum behind Basie’s piano-so unusual for the time. The way he tuned his drums, to intervals, also was a plus. His drums had an open, un-muffled sound. This sort of tuning is difficult for many drummers because it demands great control of the hands and the right foot. The tuning worked well for him; he found he could get out what he wanted to say because the situation was so challenging.”

4:49 am on October 7, 2012
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