Blues for Dracula: PHILLY JOE JONES Sextet
Nat Adderley (cnt) Julian Priester (tb) Johnny Griffin (ts) Tommy Flanagan (p) Jimmy Garrison (b) Philly Joe Jones (drs)
NYC; September 17, 1958
1. Blues for Dracula (8:11) (Johnny Griffin)
2. Trick Street (3:47) (Owen Marshall)
3. Fiesta (10:25) (Cal Massey/ arr. Philly Joe Jones)
1. Tune-Up (8:00) (Miles Davis)
2. Ow! (12:08) (Dizzy Gillespie)
“PHILLY JOE JONES” is a man with two widely different claims to fame. Among fellow musicians he is possibly almost as well known for his singular devotion to the works of the late Bela Lugosi as he is for his considerable achievements as a drummer.
A long-time student of the many movies featuring the horror-specialist actor who made Dracula something like a household word, Joe has developed a quite remarkable and extensive set of impressions of Lugosi-as-Dracula. Up to now, however, this facet of Philly’s talent has been kept from the public. But it struck us as only fitting that, as part of the first album specifically designed to spotlight his abilities, the Jones version of Dracula should be for the first time exposed (if he’ll pardon the expression) to the light of day. So a generous cross-section of Joe’s verbal vampirism has been incorporated into the appropriately sinister-sounding blues, provided by tenorman Johnny Griffin, that leads off the album.
The rest of the proceedings are along somewhat more orthodox lines, with the emphasis on the more musical of Philly’s two talents. One of the most dynamic and truly swinging drummers to have come along in many a year, he furnishes a striking example of the ways in which the function and uses of the instrument have now been extended far beyond its earlier role as merely a vehicle for laying down a simple, straightforward beat.
Some of the great amount for attention being paid to drummers nowadays may be due to a purely physical impact on both eyes and ears: the drummer operates behind an imposing battery of equipment, and he is firmly established by now as a frequent solo voice. But there can be much more to it than that. The most effective of modern jazz drummers are men capable of handling very difficult tasks. Jazz today accepts a matter of course an amazing span of variations in tempo, rhythms and dynamics. Soloists range along far-out paths; broken rhythms and deliberately out-of-meter playing are no longer unusually startling departures. All this means that not only does today’s drummer have a lot to do, but also standardized patterns of his own. And as if that weren’t a full enough load, it remains as essential as ever that he operates as the core of the rhythm section, for everything else goes for just about nothing if he fails to set down a reliable, unwavering basic beat for everyone else to lean on.
When you find a drummer who can handle this multiple assignment, you have obviously found quite a musician. And in the opinion of a good many of the best men playing today, there are very, very few drummers around as stimulating and as helpful to work with as Philly Joe Jones. This is not, it should be noted, a unanimous opinion. There are those who listen somewhat fearfully to the many things Joe does, and who tend to damn him with rather left-handed praise. Critic Leonard Feather, for example, writing in Down Beat, duly noted that he has “rapidly gained popularity among the musicians of the hard bop school,” but went on to hedge that “Jones’ rhythms are so complex, and are so forcefully expressed, that some conservative musicians and listeners have compared him unfavorably, with a machine gun. Nevertheless it is beyond question that this represents one . . . direction in which modern percussion id moving.”
In other words, Philly is no man for the conservatives. Which stands to reason, since he is neither playing for nor with any such group. Among the very many musicians and listeners who are tuned to his wave-length, there is no doubt that Joe is considerably more varied, imaginative, controlled and satisfying to play with than any machine gun.
This album is, by design, what is currently known as “a blowing date.” The best way to showcase Philly is to display his work in the kind of setting he likes best – sparking a medium-size band, with much emphasis on the way he can support, sustain, and just plain boot first-class horn men through extended solos. To work with him on his first LP as a leader, Jones selected a musically tough group that combines some fast-rising young stars with a couple of exceptionally talented newcomers. NAT ADDERLEY, younger brother of Cannonball, is a hard-driver with unusual range and power; he has most recently been featured with the J. J. Johnson Quintet. JOHNNY GRIFFIN, the inventive, amazingly facile and big-toned tenor from Chicago, worked with Thelonious Monk and has led his own groups at Birdland and the Village Vanguard in New York. JULIAN PRIESTRE, also from Chicago and making his Riverside debut here, reveals a notably full, robust trombone style. JIMMY GARRISON, a firm young bassist now beginning to attract attention in the New York are, has worked in clubs with Jones, Griffin and others, but this LP marks his first record date. TOMMY FLANAGAN, also a part of J. J.’s group, is a swinging and lyrical pianist who is appearing on Riverside for the first time.
PHILLY JOE JONES has carried his birthplace as part of his name through most of his jazz career in order to avoid confusion with the ex-Basie drum star, Jo Jones. Born in 1923, he worked with Griffin in a Joe Morris band in the late ‘40s, was part of the star-studded but short-lived Tadd Dameron orchestra of the early ‘50s, and has gained most attention through his association in recent years with Miles Davis. Riverside’s opinion of Philly Joe’s abilities is best underlined by pointing out that he has played on more of the label’s LPs than any other drummer. Although he is a formidable driver when the tempo is fierce, Joe is also capable of far more variety of dynamics and shadings than those who describe him as a “machine gunner” would have one believe – as his handling of Blues for Dracula and Fiesta should indicate. The latter is Joe’s own scoring of a tune by a young Philadelphia writer, Cal Massey. Another able young composer, Owen Marshall, is represented by the smooth Trick Street. There’s also a happy treatment of Miles Davis Tune-up and, finally, a well-constructed extensive exploration of an infrequently played Dizzy Gillespie item, Ow!
Griffin has appeared on several previous Riverside albums in support of a wide variety of jazzmen,
ranging for example from Thelonious Monk (RLPs 12-262 and 12-279) to Chet Baker (RLP 12-281).
Two LPs of his own on this label are –
JOHNNY GORFFIN sextet; with Pepper Adams, Donald Byrd, Philly Joe Jones (RLP 12-264)
Way Out: JOHNNY GRIFFIN Quartet (RLP 12-274)
Adderley’s first Riverside LP is –
Branching Out: NAT ADDERLEY, with Johnny Griffin and ‘The Three Sound’ (RLP 12-285)
Philly Joe Jones has, as noted, played on a substantial number of Riverside albums. Among them are –
Portrait of Cannonball: JULIAN ADDERLEY Quintet (RLP 12-269)
CHET BAKER in New York (RLP 12-281)
In Orbit: CLARK TERRY Quartet; with Thelonious Monk (RLP 12-271)
Big Six: BLUE MITCHELL Sextet (RLP 12-273)
Look Out for EVAN SBRADSHAW (RLP 12-263)
Last Chorus: ERNIE HENRY (RLP 12-266)
It’s Magic: ABBEY LINCOLN (RLP 12-277)
“Pal Joey” KENNY DREW Trio (RLP 12-249)
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording – Riverside-Reeves SPECTROSONIC High Fidelity Engineering
(Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve).
Produced, and notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS.
Cover by PAUL WELLER (photography) and PAUL BACON (design).
Engineer: JACK HIGGINS (Reeves Sound Studios).
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.