Jo Jones's reputation rests solely on his stint with Count Basie, but that's like saying that Humphrey Bogart is known only for his acting. Jones, along with Freddie Green, Walter Page, and Basie, virtually invented the concept of swing. As a unit, they powered the Basie band through a series of top-notch records. But what did Jones do after that?
For one thing, he recorded a few albums as a leader. These sessions, done for the Everest label in 1958 and 1960, are obscure but terrific. The first half, originally titled The Jo Jones Trio, features his working unit of Ray Bryant and Tom Bryant on a straightforward piano trio recording. Bryant utilizes a minimalist approach similar to Basie's, but the trio explores a wider terrain than the big band ever did on songs like "Greensleeves and two versions of "I Got Rhythm. The second session, originally released as Vamp 'Til Ready, is an informal jam session featuring an outstanding line up of Tommy Flanagan on piano, Harry "Sweets Edison on trumpet, Bennie Green on trombone, and Jimmy Forrest on sax.
The key to the success of both of these recordings is the presence of Jones, who capably and subtly powers his fellow players with his playing. Compared to the thundering drummers who came in the wake of Gene Krupa, Jones has a gentler sound, almost like rustling leaves or crackling paper, but nonetheless with a keen sense of forward movement like a locomotive heard off in the distance. The mark of any good drummer is not just an ability to propel the beat, but also to suggest directions in which to go through accents and placement. Jones handles this superbly, whether it be with sticks, brushes, or his bare hands.
To some degree Jones is forgotten today, replaced by fellow drummers like Elvin Jones and Max Roach in people's minds as the quintessential jazz drummer. Make no mistake about it: even in the late fifties, Jones was still the man to beat on the skins.
Personnel: On 1-12: Jo Jones - drums; Ray Bryant - piano; Tom Bryant - bass. On 13-24: Jo Jones - drums; Harry "Sweets" Edison - trumpet; Bennie Green - trombone; Tommy Flanagan - piano; Jimmy Forrest - tenor saxophone; Tommy Potter - bass.