Philly Joe Jones
Philly Joe Jones, is "a master of every aspect of jazz percussion. . . . One of the most electrifying drummers to have influenced jazz."
Philly Joe plays "careful, remarkably graduated structures, full of surprises, varied timbres, and good old-fashioned emotions."
Universally recognized as one of the very greatest drummers in the history of jazz, Philly Joe Jones has reemerged on the national scene in a big way. First, touring with piano great Bill Evans, and now, releasing Philly Mignon on Galaxy Records, his first album as a leader for an American label in 15 years.
Philly Joe was born Joseph Rudolph Jones, in Philadelphia, July 15, 1923. His mother, a music educator, taught him the piano at an early age. Later, after he had become a drummer, he played in Philadelphia with musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, the Heath Brothers, Fats Navarro, and Ben Webster.
Inevitably, Philly Joe broke into the New York scene, accompanying a great number of top musicians, but it was his association with Miles Davis that saw his style reach full maturity; his influence became pervasive. With the great Davis Quintet (including John Coltrane, Paul Chambers, and Red Garland) from 1955 through 1958, Philly was a driving force behind one of the greatest rhythm sections in jazz history. Although a few conservative critics in those early days accused Joe of being a loud and insensitive basher, he was, in fact, a creative innovator of major importance.
Philly Joewas, and, is, a supreme melodist on the drums. He is a man of great taste who, starting 25 years ago with Miles, has cross-fertilized the polyrhythmic precision of Max Roach with the sheer, grooving force ofArt Blakey. Anyone who still doubts his ability to be a subtle, sophisticated accompanist should listen tohis unsurpassed brushwork (on "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" from Philly Mignon,for example), not to mention his magic with the sticks.
Philly Joe, as witty and stimulating an offstage raconteur as he is a natural showman and humorist onstage, described some of his feelings about Miles Davis to Down Beat interviewer Sandy Davis (9/9/76): "It was the greatest and happiest experience I’ve ever had in music. It helped groom me, it helped open my ears. It even forced me to study more. When you’re playing with giants like that, you have to study. . . . [With Miles] it was music, music, music. And learning, always learning,"
Philly long ago reached a point in his career where he didn’t feel the need to practice, except, he said, on rare occasions: "What makes me feel good is when I’m playing something I know I haven’t done before. Whenever I hear something that I know I can’t play, that’s when I go home and practice."
Philly’s open-minded attitude was revealed, in a 1969 interview with fellow drummer Arthur Taylor (from Taylor’s book Notes and Tones): "There are so many young musicians coming through that are playing beautiful today. People like McCoy Tyner, Tony Williams and Herbie Hancock, the young element. They’re beginning totalk, beginning toplay. I’m very happy that I’ve been around so much longer than them so I can watch them grow, because it helps me togrow. I refuse to become stagnant. I learn something from every musician I listen to."
Since 1959, Philly Joe has led various bands of his own, both in and out of his native Philadelphia area, and has played selective gigs with other jazz giants-most recently, his year-long stint with Bill Evans, and a short tour with Red Garland. He recorded with Evans on the pianist’s Quintessence album on Fantasy, and, on Galaxy, with Red Garland and Ron Carter for the Crossings LP.
Philly Joe is joined on the Philly Mignon sessions by no less than Dexter Gordon, Ron Carter, Ira Sullivan, Nat Adderley, and George Cables. That musicians of such high caliber were eager to work with him is fitting testimony to the drummer’s musicianship and humanity.
Philly Joe Jones died August 30, 1985.