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Cooking with Philly Joe

Rob Mariani By

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Some people have described Philly Joe as a big band drummer who sounded great with small groups because he had such a highly developed sense of structure. There was always a full-fledged arrangement in his head just as if he were playing a big band chart but scaled down to fit a quintet or even a trio—and yet always completely spontaneous.

I had the good fortune to hear Philly Joe several times throughout his career— with Miles, and with his own groups, and it was always an incredibly energizing experience. I always came away smiling. Once, just before Philly Joe left for a brief self-imposed exile in Europe, I had the extraordinary opportunity of hearing him at Paul's Mall in Boston with Bill Evans and Eddy Gomez. The empathy and creativity that came out of those three men was miraculous. Whether it was a blistering up-tempo "Minority full of off-kilter, crazy-assed drum breaks that left you breathless, or a deep, beautiful and moving ballad like "My Foolish Heart, what these guys did was cook.


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