Philly Joe Jones

The “perfect combination of Blakey’s unquenchable fire, Catlett’s melodiousness, and Roach’s subtlety”—such is MD‘s description of Philly Joe Jones. Joe was all of the above, and more, on the 1958 album, Milestones, with Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Red Garland and Paul Chambers, creating many moods ranging from the cool “Miles,” to the fiery “Two Bass Hit.”

The most noticeable aspect of Joe’s playing is an incredibly strong and consistent right hand. His cymbal rhythm is always powerful, accurate, and dead center in an almost exact 12/8 interpretation:

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The strength of Joe’s ride cymbal is even more apparent on “Dr. Jekyll.” The hi-hat’s absence is noticeable only upon close listening. It still swings! Furthermore, Joe has such dynamic control over his cymbal that he’s able to ride over every bass solo without covering Paul Chamber’s efforts.

Against his strong cymbal, Joe usually places his hi-hat on the conventional two and four. However, when comping, he often uses his hi-hat independent of the ride cymbal. During the bass solo on “Sid’s Ahead,” Joe plays a syncopated triplet figure on the hi-hat: (Ex. 2)

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Joe uses the snare and bass drum independently in comping. The ride rhythm usually remains unchanged, despite the actions of the left hand or right foot. A favorite device, used in “Sid’s Ahead,” “Billy Boy” and “Straight, No Chaser,” is triplets against the ride rhythm:

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Joe’s solo style is extremely musical and technically exciting. In the following transcription of “fours,” notice Joe’s penchant for repeating figures, lending unity to the entire solo. Also, notice his frequent use of cross-rhythms, his independent use of drums, cymbals, and hi-hat, his mixtures of duple and triple rhythms, and his use of colors.

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