In this lesson we’ll build on the concepts we explored in the April 2017 issue by taking a look at the drumming style of jazz legend Philly Joe Jones and applying his ideas to Ted Reed’s seminal book Syncopation. We’ll interpret the first line of Exercise 1 (found on page 38 of the most recently published editions), but be sure to apply the concepts to the entire page and beyond. Here’s the rhythm we’ll be utilizing.

Many of Jones’ best recorded moments occur during the drum breaks that he played with Miles Davis. We can hear him really let loose in one of his most drawn-out solos, from “Salt Peanuts,” off the album Steamin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet. This solo, while a departure from Philly Joe’s typical slick and concise style, serves to showcase his mastery of rudimental drumming, a style the drummer developed in large part due to his studies with the great jazz educator and author Charley Wilcoxon.

This first interpretation demonstrates a variation that’s reminiscent of some of Jones’ ideas. Play the rhythm from Exercise 1 as accents while filling in the space between the figures with 16th-note paradiddles. Every note of the original rhythm that lasts for a full beat is played as a single paradiddle, every beat and a half will become a double paradiddle, and every note that lasts for two beats will be played as a triple paradiddle, as notated in Exercise 2. Feather quarter notes on the bass drum while playing the hi-hat foot on beats 2 and 4.

A similar interpretation can be derived from six-stroke rolls played as triplets.

In the next example, play the line with the right hand and fill in 16th notes with the left. The burden on the left hand is a workout, so remember to stay relaxed. The Moeller technique can be applied by accenting the first left-hand stroke of each grouping and letting the stick bounce. The left-hand notes can also be played without bouncing the stick. Extended repetitions will build control of any technique that you apply.

Jones was able to get many different sounds out of the snare drum. He made use of the stick shot regularly, an effect that Davis himself has praised in his 1990 book Miles: The Autobiography. “And so that thing that he used to do after I played something—that rimshot—became known as ‘the Philly lick,’ and it made him famous, took him right up to the top of the drumming world.”

Practice this sound by playing each 8th note from Exercise 1 as stick shots, where the left stick is pressed into the head and the right stick strikes the left. Play the rest of the written phrase with the right hand and move it around the drums clockwise, and fill in 8th notes with the bass drum in between the notated rhythm.

To hear some of Jones’ playing outside of his work with Davis, check out Dexter Gordon’s Dexter Calling…, Donald Bird’s The Cat Walk, Bill Evans’ Everybody Digs Bill Evans, and Benny Golson’s Benny Golson and the Philadelphians.


Mike Alfieri is a Brooklyn, New York–based drummer and educator. He has a bachelor’s degree in music education from the Crane School of Music and a master’s degree in jazz studies from SUNY Purchase. For more info, visit mikealfieri.net.