Jazz Drummer’s Workshop

Papa Jo Jones Drum Fill

Incorporating a Classic Jazz Lick

by John Xepoleas

In this lesson we’ll explore a versatile and great-sounding fill from jazz legend Papa Jo Jones. The basic pattern is notated in Exercise 1. Pay close attention to the sticking—it’s essential to start and end the fill with your lead hand.

Now add the hi-hat on beats 2 and 4, and play the fill into a bar of swing time. Practice this two-bar phrase until you can easily play the fill with the correct sticking and with a relaxed feel.

Next we’ll play the fill using the press roll instead of single strokes.

For a nice-sounding variation, we’ll play the first note of the fill on the tom instead of the snare.

Now we’ll use the fill at the end of an eight-bar phrase. In a song with an AABA form, the fill works well at the end of the second A section going to the B section, as well as at the end of the B section going back to the final A section, or at the end of the last A section going back to the top of the form.

Let’s use this fill to set up three common big band figures. Each of the following examples demonstrates how the figure would appear as written in a chart followed by how it would be played when using the fill. Here’s our first figure.

Here’s how the figure would be interpreted using the Papa Jo fill.

Here’s a figure that accents the “&” of beat 1 followed by an interpretation using our fill.

This final phrase starts on the “&” of beat 3. Exercises 10 and 11 demonstrate the figure’s written and interpreted versions.

John Xepoleas has written two drum books, Style Studies for the Creative Drummer and Essential Drum Lessons With the Greats. He is also an active online educator. For more info, visit johnxdrums.com.