We tend to think of jazz drummers simply as guys who are fast with a set of sticks or brushes and good at keeping time. But like all great jazz musicians, the best drummers know the instrument's long history and the styles of all those who came before them. This was especially true of Jo Jones, who pioneered new ways of the drums while in Count Basie's band starting in 1936. Jones took on the honorific Papa" in later years to differentiate himself from drummer Philly Joe Jones.
In 1973, Papa Jo recorded a highly unusual album that has gone unnoticed by many jazz fans. Titled The Drums, the album was recorded in Paris by Hugues Panassié—a French jazz producer and critic who founded the Hot Club de France in 1932. Jones was on tour there at the time with Milt Buckner.
What makes this album so unusual is that there is no music. Jones just talks about the evolution of jazz drumming and illustrates different drummers' styles. So the listener gets to hear what Jo Jones' speaking voice sounded like at length as well as illustrated samples of Jones playing in the styles of significant drummers.
For years, Jones' The Drums has been available only as a $50 import. But I found it as a $5 download at the mp3 page of Bruce Klauber's JazzLegends.com (scroll down near the bottom). At the site's home page, it looks like there are dozens of other gems offered by the site.
Note that a link for the download is sent to you by email soon after you pay, and that you may want to review the downloaded track titles against the text playlist that accompanies the download. Also, the download does not include Sweet Sue, the only track that featured pianist Willie The Lion" Smith.
This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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