Willie Jones

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The stack of brilliant jazz sides that this drummer appears on is so impressive that it is hard to believe he was only on the recording scene for less than a decade. He is sometimes known as Willie Jones…
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The stack of brilliant jazz sides that this drummer appears on is so impressive that it is hard to believe he was only on the recording scene for less than a decade. He is sometimes known as Willie Jones Jr. and is the second in a jazz lineage of two drummers and one pianist with the same name -- in which nobody is actually related by family. This drumming Willie Jones Jr. is often confused with the younger Willie Jones III, despite the latter player's efforts to erect fences with Roman numerals. The "first" Willie Jones, an excellent pianist from Chicago, is entwined in a bit less confusion due to his own obscurity.

Pithecanthropus Erectus
A case can be made for bad luck concerning the older drummer's brief recording career, at least in terms of how things started. Jones' first jazz outing on record was, after all, the tune "Friday the Thirteenth" with the group of Thelonious Monk. If the discussion changes from superstition to super music, Jones can hardly be accused of idly tossing salt over his shoulder. Having contributed well to Monk's music, including classic sessions involving genius tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, the drummer continued working with a superb series of innovators of varying public stature: Elmo Hope in 1955, then both Randy Weston and Charles Mingus the following year. Jones was the drummer on Pithecanthropus Erectus, one of the Mingus masterpieces from that bandleader, bassist, and composer's tenure with the Atlantic label.

Jones' final jobs of stature indicate his wide range. Through the second half of the '50s he played both sticks and brushes in Lester Young's final combo, straight-ahead swing with no apologies. In 1961 Jones made his final recordings, appearing on sessions organized by Sun Ra for the Savoy label in the fall of 1961. The involvement in Ra's distant galaxy indicates the drummer's position as an early supporter of this creative but often marginalized big band leader shortly after Ra's arrival in the Big Apple.