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Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones Hardcover – September 19, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Jo Jones, an elegant, swinging dude, always had a style of his own. When he was with us, you could hear him, feel him—everything was right there." —Count Basie



"I first met Jo Jones at the RKO Theater in Boston when I was a teenager in the early 1940s and we were friends until he passed away. He was my first influence and my major influence. He was ‘Papa’ Jo to me before they gave him that title. He was like a father to me. For drummers of my generation, Jo was the president of the drums just like Lester Young was president of the tenor saxophone. Jo loved to talk, and when he spoke it was almost as if he was playing the drums: you’d give him your undivided attention. Rifftide conveys a fine sense of his voice and the larger than life dimensions of his personality." —Roy Haynes



"Albert Murray has helped keep the incomparable Jo Jones alive through the voice of Count Basie in Good Morning Blues and fictionally in The Magic Keys, but in Rifftide, thanks to the persistence of editor Paul Devlin, we get to hear Jo himself in all his dynamic, adrenalized, anecdotal, no-bull glory—riffing with words as heartily as he did on the hi-hat." —Gary Giddins, author of Warning Shadows and Jazz

About the Author

Papa Jo Jones (1911–1985) was one of the most influential jazz drummers of all time. He played with Count Basie and his orchestra from 1936 until he entered the army in 1944, and again from 1946 to 1948. He also played on Billie Holiday’s early records. From the late forties on, Jones had a spectacular solo career, playing with Jazz at the Philharmonic and the Newport Jazz Festival, recording under his own name, and playing on albums by Duke Ellington, Teddy Wilson, Benny Carter, and many others.

Albert Murray was a cofounder of Jazz at Lincoln Center. His many books include Train Whistle Guitar and Good Morning Blues: The Autobiography of Count Basie.

Paul Devlin is a doctoral student in the English Department at Stony Brook University. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Slate, the Root, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications.

Phil Schaap has broadcast jazz on New York City’s WKCR for more than forty years. He taught at Princeton University and currently teaches at Julliard. He is the curator at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press (September 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816673004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816673001
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,467,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mike Tarrani HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on July 17, 2012
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I'm going to immediately set expectations about this book: if you are searching for information and opinions about drumming and other drummers, this is not the book for you. I suggest that, instead, you read the information-rich chapter on Papa Jo Jones in Drummin' Men: The Heartbeat of Jazz The Swing Years. Next, augment that excellent book with Drums By Jo Jones. Then marvel at how he gracefully moves around the drum kit in the second segment of this video: Jazz Icons: Coleman Hawkins Live in '62 & '64.

On the other hand, if you are seeking to understand Papa Jo Jones the man, along with his views on a myriad of topics then this book is a treasure. And as you come to understand him you may get a glimpse into how he came about and what molded him.

Most folks describe the book as having three parts: Paul Devlin's Preface that discusses the trials and tribulations of transcribing interviews that Albert Murray conducted with Papa Jo, then Rifftide - Jo Jones in Jo Jones' own words, and an Afterward by Phil Shaap. I would like to add the Editor's Notes, which comprise 28 pages of invaluable information that is like the Rosetta Stone for the preceding sections.

Of the principals involved in creating this book, the editor - Paul Devlin - never met Papa Jo in person. That does not diminish his importance because transcribing and making sense of the interview tapes were daunting tasks. That is not to say that Albert Murray's interview sessions were easy either.
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This book began as a series of taped interviews with Papa Jo by Albert Murray. Paul Devlin transcribed them and edited them into a more or less continuous narrative with Murray's questions omitted. Also included is a brief, hyperbolic speech that Jones gave to the Duke Ellington Society (also recorded by Murray.)
First we get a 16 page editor's preface on how he came to edit the book. You can safely skip this as it's summarized in the 24 page intro. You could probably skip that also, but you'd miss some valuable background info such as "Apart from knocking out a policeman in Pittsburgh in 1937 and being briefly institutionalized in a hospital for the criminally insane, all seems to have gone fairly smoothly for Jo during the height of the swing era."
In his conversations with the editor, Murray compared Jones' speech to James Joyce's writing in "Finnegans Wake." I thought that this must be some sort of pretentious nonsense until I started reading the 85 pages of transcript. Half the time I didn't have the slightest idea what Jones was talking about. For instance: "No little girl - college notwithstanding - nobody ever been as clean as Little Rock, Arkansas, with them brooms that they made, the alley, the trash: you could eat off the front porch. You know Baltimore, they scrub scrub. Nuh-uh. All them little girls, they had them little socks on, in the beauty parlor, it was boomin', no ashy legs, ding ding ding, I'm sorry: they lived in the beauty parlor."
There is a certain amount of rhythm in Jones speech and it may be best to just read it as music; if something makes sense every once in awhile, that's a bonus. Some of the allusions are explained in 27 pages of footnotes at the back of the book.
There's also a 23 page afterword by Phil Schaap, thankfully in plain English.
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This has got to be the worst! bio I've ever read! And I've read hundreds and hundreds of bios. And I'm also an ex musician myself. but this guy Albert Murray certainly did no editing or corrected any repeats of Mr. Jones. He just raves on and on, ad nauseum. If fact, I'm not even going to waste my time finishing it. I'll just toss it the trash immediately. Frank
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Watching Jo Jones on the classic "The Sound of Jazz" video will give you a sense of what a rock of a time-keeper he was. His reputation as a cheer leader and big band driver was referred to when he was noted to be an important element in the explosive Ellington performance of "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" at Newport in '56. Jo was in front of the band urging them on as they swept the audience away with an unparalleled full-out blast. In every day life Jo was multi-talented and "difficult" guy and the full range of his persona is captured here, often in his own unique language, so that you get to know Jo Jones as few ever did. Not an easy read, but interesting and engaging.
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I witnessed Papa Joe playing brushes on the bar stools and the bar of Jim & Andy's
famous jazz Tavern..truly a marvel!
I was disappointed in this book, because instead of documenting the people and places
Joe was involved with, it voyages into his cerebellum where Joe obviously knows all the
deep thoughts and various 'trips' that his mind was taking, but after reading this book, you
may not have arrived at the same destination that he did!
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I agree with everything my fellow reviewers have said previously, and would like to add: the author states several times he had many hours of source tapes from Albert Murray, and described how painstaking it was to transcribe them all. Yet what we are provided is only 83 pages of material about the interviews!! The book begins with an Editors preface that goes on for 14 pages, and then a further 24-page Introduction. The book itself is only 83 pages. If the author had provided us MORE MEAT instead of all that FILLER regarding the life of this incredible man/musician, it would have been a better choice. Also: in this age of multi-media, why in heaven's name didn't the author include an accompanying CD that had excerpts from the tapes??? The estate of Jo Jones could have been better served preserving his legacy IN HIS OWN WORDS via audio as companion to this short volume of excerpted material that instead is Papa Jo's words "Painstakingly edited"....painstaking, indeed, for those of who would buy that in a heartbeat, to hear Papa Jo's own tales raw and UNEDITED.......a real loss to musicians and history as well. Could we hope for a Vol. II that contains the audio tapes themselves? At very least, those tapes should be provided to the Library of Congress for preservation of a unique jazz life during the height of jazz's majesty.
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