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Papa Jo Jones

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Last Updated: 26 November 2020

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By PAUL DEVLIN Freelance writer, doctoral student at Stony Brook University, and editor of Rifftide: Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones October 7 2011, Mark one-hundredth birthday of Jonathan David Samuel Jones, better known to the world as the revolutionary Jazz drummer Papa Jo, man who plays like wind. One hundred years after his birth in Chicago, Papa Jo is not forgottenand never wasbut, he is also not as well-know as his music and his unique personality warrant. The music he made with Count Basie, as well as with Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Teddy Wilson, Coleman Hawkins, Ida Cox, Tyree Glenn, Benny Carter, Charles Mingus, Milt Buckner, Bob Brookmeyer, Milt Hinton, and Duke Ellington is the epitome of taste, skill, and elegance, and can never be date, as it rest on deep historical foundation. While very much a man of his time and engaged with issues of his day, Jo Jones was also like a figure from an earlier era. Among his favorite books were James M. Trotters Music and Some Highly Musical People and Reverend William J. Simmons Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising. Papa Jo hopped there would some day be a book on autistic African American pianist Blind Tom Wiggins, and indeed today there are several about him. Papa Jo entered Show business at age twelve and spent years working on and off in traveling circuses and carnivals. He performs as an actor, dancer, and musician in vaudeville and on the Chautauqua circuit. When bassist Milt Hinton interviewed Jones for Smithsonians Jazz Oral History Project, he was keen to ask about this period. While Hinton was actually a year older than Jones, it seemed to him that Jones had access to a broader and, in many ways, unique historical base of knowledge. Along these lines, Jones tells Albert Murray: People I am talking about, I started meeting them from 1923 on up. I had had a head start. By time when I was like 12 and 13 years old and was meeting these people, these people were like 45 and 50 60 years old then. Jones was fearful of history being lost and adamant that history-particularly African American Musical History-must be preserve. And this is the first book about Papa Jo. Jo Jones was able to use his historical knowledge of music to chart new territory. I recently re-listen to the Jones-Murray interviews and came across one of the very few moments that I regret not including in the book. On January 1937 studio date with Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson, Buck Clayton, Walter Page, and Benny Goodman, Goodman quizzically asks Jones where his bass drum was Jo replies I dont use it. Sock cymbal, snare drum, that's all. Benny, I aint suppose to have time for you!

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