Philly Joe Jones

Philly Joe JonesJoseph Rudolph “Philly Joe” Jones (July 15, 1923 – August 30, 1985) was a Philadelphia-born American jazz drummer, known as the drummer for the first “Great”Miles Davis Quintet. He was often confused with another influential jazz drummer, Jo Jones. The two died only a few days apart.

Early life

As a child, Jones appeared as “a featured tap dancer on The Kiddie Show on the Philadelphia radio Station WIP.” He was in the army during World War II.


In 1947 he became the house drummer at Café Society in New York City, where he played with the leading bebop players of the day. Among them, the most important influence on Jones was Tadd Dameron. Jones toured and recorded with Miles Davis Quintet from 1955 to 1958—a band that became known as “The Quintet” (along with Red Garland on piano, John Coltrane on sax, and Paul Chambers on bass). Davis acknowledged that Jones was his favorite drummer and stated in his autobiography that he would always listen for Jones in other drummers.

From 1958 Jones worked as a leader, but continued to work as a sideman with other musicians, including Bill Evans and Hank Mobley. Evans also openly admitted that Jones was his all-time favorite drummer. For two years (1967–69) Jones taught at a specially organized school in Hampstead, London, but was prevented from otherwise working in the UK by the Musicians’ Union.

From 1981 he helped to found the group Dameronia, dedicated to the music of the composer Tadd Dameron, and led it until his death. He also played in two movies.

Jones died of a heart attack at home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the age of 62. He was survived by his wife and son.

Playing style

Jones’ “combination of deep-toned tom-tom and bass drums with subtle swirls of cross-rhythm on cymbals was widely imitated.”

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