Jo Jones Day

October 7, 1911 – September 3, 1985


The great Count Basie drummer is remembered

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Drummer Jonathan David Samuel Jones was born October 7, 1911 in Chicago, Illinois.

Although born in Chicago, Jones grew up in Alabama, playing saxophone and piano before deciding to devote himself to being a drummer.

Jones performed in carnival shows as a drummer and tap-dancer before becoming a member of the Blue Devils in Oklahoma City in the late 1920s.

He recorded with Lloyd Hunter’s Serenaders in 1931 but his big break was when he joined Count Basie’s orchestra in Kansas City in 1934.

Jones had a lighter sound than most drummers of the era, shifting the timekeeping role from the bass drum to the hi-hat cymbal and becoming a master at using brushes.

He was part of what was billed as the All American Rhythm Section along with pianist Basie, rhythm guitarist Freddie Green and bassist Walter Page.

Other than two years spent in the military, Jo Jones was part of the Count Basie Orchestra through its glory years into 1948, becoming a major influence on the many drummers who followed, including Max Roach.

After leaving Basie, he worked steadily with small groups, made some tours with Jazz At The Philharmonic, performed with all-star swing combos, and had reunions with various Basie sidemen, occasionally leading his own record dates.

Jo Jones died a month short of his 74th birthday.

Here is Jo Jones in June 1969 taking a drum solo on “Caravan” from the French film “l’Aventure du Jazz.”

-Scott Yanow


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