Saturday night, Jessica Williams is going to play a solo piano concert at The Seasons, which is developing into quite the performance hall. Word is getting around among musicians about the magical acoustics, the hip audiences, and the good treatment and respect players receive there. I will have the privilege of introducing Jessica. Iâ€™ve been thinking about her, so I visited the blog section of her web site to see whatâ€™s been on her mind. Philly Joe Jones, for one thing. She was in his band thirty years ago. She lived in Philadelphia, was newly married, had no piano and went to the University of Pennsylvania campus on Spruce Street to practice.
It was a nine-footer, a Steinway D. And it was summertime, and it was hot. And I had flung open these big windows that opened onto the inner square (the building had a big Liberty Bell in the foyer), so if you passed by these windows you could hear me playing.
That day, I was playing “Put Your Little Foot Out” by Miles Davis, and this cat in short sleeves and a hat stuck his head in the window and said ‘I played that with Miles’ and I knew it wasn’t Paul Chambers or Red Garland, it had to be Philly Joe. He came inside and asked me to play “Tadd’s Delight” (in A-flat, which scared the hell out of me, as I had always played it in F for reasons of sheer laziness) and If “I were a Bell,” which was no problem, since I knew that one really well. That was my audition for the Philly Joe Jones Quintet (which usually turned out to be a quartet for some reason or other). Tyree Glenn was in that band, and a different bass player on every gig. We played the joints… in Camden, Trenton, Hoboken, all the seamy little holes-in-the-wall. I was terrified most of the time. I can’t remember exactly why… probably just totally freaked that I was playing with THE Philly Joe Jones. I mean, gee whiz, kids!
To read the whole thing, go here. And if you happen to be in Yakima, Washington, Saturday night, drop by The Seasons, listen to Jessica, have a glass of good Washington wine and say hello.
For an assessment and appreciation of Philly Joe Jones, see Burt Korall’s Drummin’ Men:The Bebop Years. A sample:
…he had rare, surprising capacities that went far beyond the instrument he played. Jones was an appealingly facile tap dancer, a pianist, a composer, an arranger, and a songwriter. He sang ballads and scatted, improvising on standards and jazz originals. He could handle the bass violinâ€”left-handedâ€”and skillfully deal with the tenor saxophone. Jones read and Interpretedâ€”with little apparent difficultyâ€”transcribed solos by his friend and fellow Philadelphian John Coltrane.
If that weren’t enough, he was, in addition, an entertainer with unusual stage presence and great ability as a mimic and comedian. I commend to your attention his now famous Bela Lugosi/Count Dracula imitation (Blues for Draculaâ€”Philly Joe Jones, Riverside.)