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Jo Jones

Jo Jones is an NEA Jazz Master

Papa Jo Jones was the drum anchor in the famous All American Rhythm Section by way of his work with Count Basie's band. Jones redefined the concept of a drummer. He lightened up on the four-beats-to-the-bar standard of bass drum playing, was possibly the first to use the ride cymbal as the main timekeeping accessory, and did all with a graceful and light touch. In the history of jazz, Jo Jones was one of the most outstanding drummers, full of sensitivity and style, in addition to an absolutely perfect drumming technique, he really knew, as very few other jazz musicians do, the history of his music.

Jonathan Jones, was born 7 Oct. 1911,in Chicago. He studied music for years, also played piano, reeds and trumpet; then went to Kansas City in 1933, teamed up with Count Basie in 1934 and after a short off on period through 1936, rejoined and stayed until 1948 except while in the US Army. It was in his tenure with Basie on piano, Freddie Green on guitar, and Walter Page on bass, that Jo Jones made and established his enduring reputation.

He minimized the use of the bass drum and kept time on the top cymbal, freeing the drum kit to do more than simply mark time: Kenny Clarke, Max Roach and others developed this in the bop era of the '40s. He was not the only Swing Era drummer to practice the new, lighter concentration on the cymbal, and in later years constant beating of the cymbal by other drummers was often irritating (sometimes because badly recorded); but he did it with such finesse, humour and good taste (rarely taking solos) that he was the most influential of his generation: the rhythm section of the Basie band in its classic years swung like a light, well-oiled machine, and he lifted every session he played on.

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