Papa Jo has been mysteriously overlooked as one of the most important drum innovators in the history of jazz.  I feel that recently he has started to get more of the attention he richly deserves as musicians and scholars look back at his role in the Basie band. I want to focus particularly on his ability to blend his drum parts into the melodies of songs.

In any case, Papa Jo is an incredible inspiration for me personally.  Listen to how he blends his drums  into this classic melody ("Cubano Chant", for more on this song see my post "Papa Jo exercise #2 from Melodic Syncopation") by playing the response to the call on the snare drum with the snares turned off.  This is not a flashy melodic statement, just a smart, tasteful, and brilliantly executed one.  Rather than detract from the song by trying to play something self-absorbed and technical, he makes himself an indispensable part of the melody.  



In this example ("Old Man River"), Papa Jo takes a slightly different approach to blending into the melody, but with the same effect of being a totally indispensable part of the melody.  Rather than only playing a response to the melody, in the first A section he plays the melody literally with the brushes and hi-hat and then goes into a kind of counter melody in the second A section.  In addition his tasteful fills resolve the musical phrase at the end of each 16 bar section.  On the bridge he goes into playing time with hits with the piano on the hi-hat before returning to yet another counter melody in the final A section.  

Besides his inspiring ability to play melodies, also check out his stunning uptempo brush playing and open drum solo! Both of the songs in this post are from the album "The Essential Jo Jones" which I highly recommend.  Here is a link:





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